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Sweetest eyes were ever seen

I’m so excited to see that this beautiful work by the Pre-Raphaelite painter Sir John Everett Millais is being displayed along with other new paintings at Paxton House in August. Paxton House is one of a handful of Georgian houses that were built overlooking the River Tweed, and is a long-time neighbour of Milne Graden. The two estates were joined through marriage, and both families became part of an extensive Scottish Borders network of estates, which also included Wedderburn Castle. A wonderful full-length oil painting of Admiral David Milne, painted by Sir Henry Raeburn, lives in the library at Paxton; its presence clearly shows the strong bonds that existed between these two Tweedside estates.

Paxton has its own Regency picture gallery, and is home to some 70 fine works from the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh. This year, Paxton will be refreshing its collection with a new exhibition for the autumn visitor season – recognition indeed of the importance that Paxton House has in the history of Scotland and the Borderlands. Works will include pieces by Scottish artist Sir Henry Raeburn and Scotland’s great writer Sir Walter Scott. Anne Redpath and Sir William Gillies, artists with local connections to the Borders, will also have a place amongst this new, refreshed collection.

The National Gallery of Scotland has chosen ‘Sweetest eyes were ever seen’ as one of the new paintings to be hung at Paxton. It was painted in 1881, and portrays a girl dressed in the soft country colours of harvest time, holding a trug of hand-picked flowers. The model for this portrait was child actress Beatrice Buckstone, who is depicted at the age of 12. Its first owner was Everett Gray, the youngest brother of Millais’s wife, Effie, and it originally hung at the Gray family home, Bowerswell, near Perth. It’s wonderful to think that a Georgian house on the banks of the River Tweed will be its new home.

Sir John Everett Millais, an Englishman, was the youngest ever member of the Royal Academy. He experimented and matured through different styles, but it was only through his later works that he became successful and, as a result, was one of the wealthiest artists of his day. He became known for his large and atmospheric Scottish landscapes, the first being Chill October, a depiction of his wife’s family home. The painting is currently owned by keen collector, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. I wonder if he will be there… An impromptu song or two around one of Paxton’s grand pianos would be a lovely addition to the evening!

I always recommend to our holidaymakers that they visit Paxton House; this estate is a vital part of the history and life of Milne Graden. Paxton, like all country houses, is grateful for everyone’s support, and welcomes all Milne Graden visitors as their guests to enjoy a hot or cold drink after a brisk river walk.

The guides are fabulous, and give enthusiastic and amusing tours. They have lived and breathed the life of Paxton and Milne Graden for many years.

So, I am looking forward to sipping my glass of elderflower, standing back to enjoy the beautiful pictures we are lucky to have so near … and being transported back to life as it was in the past, captured through the years by some of Scotland’s great painters.

Portrait of Sweetest eyes were ever seen by Sir John Everett Millais [Public domain], via Wikiart