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White-throated Toucan, George Edwards Collection of Watercolors at Drayton Hall, C. 1733 England

The museum and exhibits at Drayton Hall have welcomed the summer with new and exciting pieces to see in the Stephen F. and Laura D. Gates Gallery. We are now on our third rotation of George Edwards watercolors in the Gates Gallery’s inaugural exhibit An Agreeable Prospect: The Creation of a South Carolina Palace and Gardens.

Four new prints originally belonging to John Drayton, builder of Drayton Hall, now grace the walls in the exhibit. These prints are important not just for their time, C. 1733, but also for John Drayton’s being eighteen years old at the time these were created and his subsequent export of his set to the colonial United States from England where George Edwards painted them.

John Drayton was the first American subscriber to George Edwards’ work. This set of birds was originally 42 watercolors and was painted five years before John bought the land which would become Drayton Hall. He was, even at that young age, a person who had seen and understood the beauty of fine decorative arts, likely stemming from education in the United Kingdom.

As generations passed, the collection – once bound in a leather portfolio embossed with his initials, JD and now in the collection of the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts – was separated and sold off. With help from generous donors, Drayton Hall was able to acquire 21 of the original 42 prints which belonged to John Drayton.  Four at a time are on rotation in the museum exhibit here at Drayton Hall – six months at a time and then we rotate again in order to protect these nearly 300-year-old works of fine art.

In person, you will be impressed that these are watercolors at all. The colors are so deep and rich and the lines so very fine. They are an extraordinary gift of art left to our visitors from colonial America and we hope you will enjoy viewing these newest watercolors on display during your visit to Drayton Hall.