Monday February 10 2020

In March 2019 we were delighted to have been successful in our funding bid to the Association of Independent Museums Conservation Grant Scheme. The funding was to complete much needed repairs on Birds amongst foliage a unique, appliqued wall hanging by the artist Doris Schrecker, which was located in the drawing room of the House. The funding allowed the textile conservation team at Norfolk Museum Service (Conservation by Design) to complete much needed repairs on the piece.

Doris Schrecker’s piece (before conservation work begain) making the front page of AIM magazine.

The main problem was the deterioration of the pale green fine silk used for the leaves, many of which were only visible as outlines and any remaining fabric was fragmentary. The lining also had several large holes and was too tight causing the edges to roll back and the lower edge to buckle.

Delicate stitches of the leaves.

Detail of one of the birds and leaves on the lower left of the piece.

Work was carried out in the summer by conservator Deborah Phipps who surfaced cleared the front and back of the hanging and released the overtight lining. The missing leaf elements were also replaced with silk fabric and all loose motifs were secured following original stitch patterns. A slightly larger silk lining was applied over the top of the original and a small window was cut in the top corner to expose the reverse of the artist’s initials.

The full piece which has returned to its place in the drawing room.

Whilst the piece was undergoing repairs we decided delve into the archive to find out more about the artist. We came across correspondence from Doris and her husband Bruno Schrecker to Britten and Pears. The letters suggest that they were friends and had visited Britten and Pears in Aldeburgh.

Doris Schrecker’s letter talking about Pears commission.

Pears had commissioned Birds amongst foliage directly with her, and had sent materials and wallpaper as guidance. Her work was also displayed at the Aldeburgh Festival in 1962 in an exhibition called ‘Collages and Constructions’, alongside other artists such as Britten’s friend and collaborator, John Piper.

Handlist of the 1962 Aldeburgh Festival exhibition ‘Collages and Constructions’ featuring work by Schrecker as well as Ceri Richards and John Piper who are also represented in the Britten-Pears art collection.

Their lives were connected by music too; her husband was a cellist from the Allegri String Quartet.

Bruno writing to Britten following the Allegri’s performance of String Quartet No.1 at Snape Maltings concert hall.

Birds amongst foliage has now returned and can be seen again in all its finery in the drawing room.