Surrey country life captured by Witley artist Myles Birket Foster

PUBLISHED: 16:12 10 August 2015 | UPDATED: 17:29 10 August 2015

Gathering Lilac by Myles Birket Foster (Photo Godalming Museum)

Gathering Lilac by Myles Birket Foster (Photo Godalming Museum)


Visitors to Godalming Museum often remark on one particular painting, a beautiful watercolour, pictured right, by the renowned Surrey artist Myles Birket Foster.

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine July 2015


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Gathering Lilac shows a traditional Surrey cottage in the late 1800s; a woman works in the garden and three girls pick lilac on the verge of a country lane. Geese feed on the common and wooded hills rise behind.

The artist lived in Witley for over 30 years, and his paintings are of particular historical significance for the county.

“Gathering Lilac is a vision of picturesque and contented Surrey country life, which was shared by many in the Arts and Crafts movement, including local architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and garden designer Gertrude Jekyll,” says curator at the museum, Alison Pattison. “The painting is displayed alongside another of Birket Foster’s home, The Hill, on Wormley Hill.

“In busy times such as we live in, visitors seem to find some peace by pausing to look at this touching study of a genteel lifestyle in Surrey from a bygone era.”

Birket Foster became a full member of the Watercolour Society in 1862 (later the Royal Watercolour Society) where he showed over 300 paintings.

He also exhibited at the Royal Academy, and the V&A Museum has the original sign that he painted in 1875 for The White Hart at Witley.

Birket Foster died in 1899 at Weybridge, and was buried at Witley where a Celtic cross marks his grave.


• Godalming Museum, 109a High Street, Godalming GU7 1AQ. Tel: 01483 426510. Web: Gathering Lilac and The Hill were purchased by Godalming Museum Trust with assistance from the National Art Collections Fund, the Hamamelis Trust, Witley Parish Council and private donors.


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