Chloë Holt RCA FRSA 
Hortulus Animae: Little Garden of the Soul


Until 24 December

'"A time to contemplate, reconnect with nature and discover the beauty of the small things: hear the birds sing, watch the sunlight chase the dappled shadows, and see the garden grow and seasons change."


This new exhibition is now open at the gallery and on our website. If you would like to arrange a on-to-one virtual video tour, please email with your suggested day and time, from Monday to Friday 10.30am - 5pm.




oil and gesso on board in an antique frame
33 x 40.5cm (framed size 42.5 x 50.5cm)


Sanguinello or 'blood oranges' are one of the only varieties grown specifically in volcanic soil, with coastal breezes. They have the highest vitamin C content in the world due to the fertile soils of Mount Etna!
Orange is vital, full of energy, of warmth and happiness. This orange is more red, orange-red like the walls of the frescoes in Pompeii - a colour transformed from yellow to red in an alchemic reaction.







oil, raw pigment and encaustic wax on board in a large antique frame
64 x 77cm (framed size 95.5 x 108cm)

Lucia is a latin word meaning 'light'.  Against tumultuous skies the brilliant lead white and cadmium yellow summer flowers illuminate.  Bright and piercingly vibrant, they become all the eye sees.  A blazing sea of flowers emerging.  

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty, --that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." – Keats








oil, raw pigment and gesso on board in an antique frame.
48 x 65cm (framed size 62 x 80.5cm)

'Hydria' was the Greek name given  to a type of water-carrying vessel.  It also held oil and the votes of judges.  Of course water is essential to life, as the egg symbolises new beginnings, or in fact the beginning of life.






oil, raw pigment and gesso on board in an antique frame.

67 x 55.5cm (framed size 82 x 71cm)

Liber - meaning 'book' and also meaning 'free'.  The painting contains a carved wooden hand of a gilded saint grasping his book.  The Medieval jug from a Mediterranean shipwreck.  It is filled with Summer flowers from the garden, Nasturtiums from my terrace. 

In the Medieval garden cultivation of food was key.  The luminous nasturtium flowers were one of the most popular flowers grown.  The book "Hortulus Animae: Little Garden of the Soul" was an illustrated prayer book paying special attention to the enclosed monastic garden and herb garden and its importance to enrich and enlighten the soul.







oil and encaustic wax on board in an antique frame

67 x 47cm (framed size 74.5 x 54.5cm)

A monastic white washed walled space.  Light and shade. Spanish earthenware ceramics and Dutch Delft plates propped. A paired back painting, for simplicity, contemplation - for reverie.  The time to be lost in one's thoughts or a daydream.








oil, encaustic wax on board in antique frame
55.5 x 45.5cm (framed size 77.5 x 67 cm)


The House of Octavius Quartio in Pompeii was home to some of the city's finest frescos and renowned for its extensive lush green garden.  My little green jug, filled with freshly cut flowers from my garden contains -perhaps- some of the same specimens to be found in that glorious garden.  I imagine the lush waterways of the long colonnaded garden and the sound of their fountains and carp pond surrounded by ornamental foliage, fruit trees, wild flowers and scented herbs. A dream and of a celebration of life.


Vitis Vinifera
oil, raw pigment and gesso on board in an antique frame from The Palace of Versailles

57 x 80cm (framed size 82 x 104.5cm)

The European grapevine has been used as a symbol since ancient times.  In Greek mythology, Dionysus or the Roman 'Bacchus' was the god of the vintage, therefore bunches of the fruit were among his attributes.  Throughout history wine has been drunk as a libation to the god, as a symbol of Jesus Christ. 
The grapes and pomegranate placed on a Georgian pewter plate upon a medieval trivet become part of a vanitas celebrating beauty and life. 







oil, raw pigment and encaustic wax on board in an antique frame
35.5 x 44cm (framed size 49 x 58cm)

The Hortus was the name given to the central garden within a Roman home.  A place to enjoy the notion of 'Otium'!  A latin abstract term with a number of meanings, including: time at home, resting, contemplation and academic endeavours.  It can have intellectual and virtuous implications.  Activities that were considered in the Roman world, to be artistically valuable...and above all enlightening!







Terra Rossa

oil and gesso on board in an antique frame
41.5 x 51cm (famed size 55.5 x 65.5cm)

Terra Rossa is the native colour of the Earth of Italy. The red base to the painting mirrors the red earth where the native grape grew. Lying on a medieval pewter bowl with a ceramic Roman bowl holding pomegranates in the background, these grapes are an offering.






Sunlight & Shadows

oil and gesso on board in an antique frame.
41.5 x 61.55cm (framed size 63 x 75cm)

My friends have found leafy lemons for me this Summer.  They call out in their celebration of warmer climes.  They are, heat, sun, happiness and joy!  In my simple medieval pewter bowl in this contemplative space they feel emblematic.







Sea Poppy
oil, raw pigment and pastel on Archers’ oil paint paper

90 x 130cm
The Sea Poppy from last year's Summer still resonates.  It proliferates and climbs hostile surfaces of exposed stone, taking hold in the smallest cracks against the elements.  
Skies become seas, and the swathes my California Tree Poppy - the tides.  My garden's banks become rocky edges of land.  My memory of those past days in my favourite coastal places: from Lanzarote to St Ives; and Llanddwyn, on Anglesea - I recall exploring the wild coast lines and discovering this exceptional beauty surviving and flourishing against all odds.


Grotto Azzura
oil and pastel on Archers’ oil paint paper
88 x 130cm

Gold and silver light licks the shape of leaves of the Tree Poppy in the sunlight, shadows become pools of blue light. The early Summer garden becomes a place you could dive deep into. 
Named Grotto Azzurra after the Blue Grotto sea cave of Capri - sunlight passes through the water transforming the place, reflecting an incredible azure blue or emerald light. It is said that objects under water famously appear silver because of the dazzling light refraction. In Roman times, Emperor Tiberius used the Grotto as a marine temple and swimming hole - it was decorated with statues of the sea god Neptune and Triton.






oil, raw pigment and encaustic wax on board in an antique frame from The Palace of Versailles.
66 x 76cm (framed size 85 x 96cm)

Cera meaning 'wax' in latin.
The wax surfaced medieval Spanish huge scale offering bowl tells a tale.  It has been overpainted, stapled and re-waxed and glazed throughout its lifetime.  Rumour has it that whenever there was an illness within the monastery, because the bowl was so revered and such an essential part of every day (being the main bowl on the communal table), it was thrown into the nearby river until washed clean by the currents - each time rescued and mended and brought back into the monastic space. 
Cera is full of changing light, of history and energy.






Monastic Bowl

encaustic wax, raw pigment and oil paint in antique frame from The Palace of Versailles
66 x 76.5cm (framed size 86 x 96cm)

The giant over-painted and waxed medieval monastery offering bowl.  It sings of centuries of sanctity, sharing, of care, contemplation and faith.  There is a feeling of constant but nothing is taken for granted.  
What is consistent is the light. The echo of dappled sunlight moves across the surfaces of the bowl - optimistic and pure.  The simple unobtrusive bowl is full of humility and yet it is also most sacred and full of grace.






oil and pastel on Archers’ oil paint paper
90 x 130cm

In Roman culture the Viridarium was an internal garden sitting room within the Roman Villa, the walls were decorated with frescoes depicting plants and birds.  This work is painted directly from my garden -it's mid-summer and the flowers are alive and abundant.  My own little piece of paradise.  I admire the Romans for their gardens - places of peace and tranquility, a refuge from urban life.  Places that are filled with religious and symbolic meaning.  And gardens that are inspired and influenced by civilisations across the World.  There is such time for contemplation and inspiration here.


91 x 130cm
oil, raw pigment and pastel on Archers’ oil paint paper

This year I have spent most of the Summer observing the subtle changes of the garden.  I've had the pleasure of this every day.  A bank we planted a couple of years ago comes into full bloom.  The Senecio Cineraria Silver Dust plant with its velvety dusty icing-sugared leaves proliferates and outreaches to the sun in great swathes like waves.  It begins to resemble corals under the sea.  I imagine great oceans and reefs and I'm transported there.







Las Flores de la Espana
water-soluble pastel on Khadi paper
42 x 59.4cm

Nasturtiums are the national flower of Spain!  Their trumpet shaped flowers signal the change of Spring to Summer.  Their red, orange and yellow flowers are full of heat and energy - passion like Spain!  They remind me of these warmer climes, dreams of places I've visited and wish with all my heart to return to!






water-soluble pastel on Khadi paper
42 x 59.4cm

Chloris was 'the Greek Goddess of Spring'.  The undulating tangle of Nasturtium flowers are both delicate and gravity defying in their presence.  Chloris represents a celebration of Spring, of flowers and new growth.  These flowers feel like the essence of this.

"As she talks, her lips breathe spring roses: I was Chloris, who am now called Flora." - Ovid







Materia Prima                                   
oil, raw pigment and encaustic wax on board in an antique hand-finished frame.
77 x 96cm (framed size 92 x 111cm)

Pompeii was the City of Eternal colours.  Pigments from the depths of the Earth. Of marbles and stones, ruins and dust, terra rossa, red and yellow ochre, malachite, verdigris and azurite.  The volcanic eruption of Vesuvius brought about an alchemical transformation - Pompeii's yellows were transformed to red.  It was a world living and then brought back to life through colour. By 'Materia Prima'.  
Materia Prima is about elements and raw material...the raw material of the world.  It is the first matter in Universal terms.  This painting contains almost every earth pigment in raw form.
"Prima materia" can be compared to everything "[...]to heaven and earth, to body and spirit, chaos, microcosm, and the confused mass; it contains in itself all colours and potentially all metals; there is nothing more wonderful in the world, for it begets itself, conceives itself, and gives birth to itself" - Paul Kugler ' The Alchemy of Discourse: Image, Sound and Psyche."







oil and gesso on board in a large antique frame.
77 x 92.5cm (framed size 100 x 115cm)

Great papery petals of Italian papaver poppies signal Spring.  Primavera means 'Spring'.  The papaver symbolises peace, sleep, pleasure, hope and resilience. The giant flowers in the painting are dreamscape and enveloping.






oil and gesso on board in an antique frame.
48 x 71.5cm (framed size 66 x 89 cm)

Dusk falls and highlights the outline of architectural Acanthus flower heads; bold brilliant Echinacea; soft vibrations of cornflower blue Scabiosa and Delphinium; and starry white Aster luminous against a pale viridian sky.  The night time garden draws on. Named after Titus Livius who was known as one of Rome's distinguished historians, he was known as 'the man from Pompeii' and the tones of this painting bear semblance to the classic greens found in the frescoes of Pompeii.







oil and gesso on board in an antique frame.
32 x 41cm (framed size 44 x 52cm)

On a ’Pompeii Red’ Natural pigment ‘fresco’ surface, ‘Lararium’ is a luminous, delicate and offering painting. Based around the notion of the Roman Lararium or the shrine in the centre of the home. A shrine to the guardian spirits of the Roman household. Family members performed daily rituals at this shrine to guarantee the protection of these domestic spirits, the most significant of which were the lares.







oil and gesso on board in an antique frame.
47.5 x 65cm

My pewter bowl of lemons is drenched in Spring sunshine.  The light is reminiscent of the light that falls on the Cornish Coast and of the Mediterranean.  The tones reflect blue of the sea and sand, the light is pure and clean.  The blue spectrum light in this painting almost overwhelms the subject with luminosity, but also enhances the shape and complete form of the bowl and the fruit.  There is something magical about this type of light, which draws people back to places.  Our emotions are warm on a sunny day.






Nasturtium I                                           
water-soluble pastel on smooth watercolour paper
59.4 x 42cm


Nasturtium II
water-soluble pastel on smooth watercolour paper
59.4 x 42cm

Abundant Nasturtiums festoon every inch of the garden terrace.  Their flowers like Angel's trumpets, their leaves like lily pads.  They have a feeling of being underwater in a pool, their stems a tangle of tubas. A floating garden.







Angel’s Trumpets    
42 x 59.4cm
water-soluble pastel on Khadi paper

An abundant celebration of Summer! My terrace full of nasturtiums, their yellow flowers heralding the change in seasons.  We are being visited by butterflies and bees enjoying the flowers' sweet nectar.  They bring joy, energy and creativity.  This drawing is the first in a series of direct observational pieces based solely on the nasturtiums.  The marks and feeling are immediate, strong and vital like the flower.







oil and pastel on Archers’ oil paint paper
88 x 130cm

Fioralba literally translates fiore "flower" and dawn "alba".   A warm yellow ochre light illuminates the garden as the sun rises.  The flowers, leaves and seed heads are burnt siena, emerald and gold.







Hanging Garden                           
water-soluble pastel on watercolour paper
77 x 56.5cm

Like great Water Lily pads, the leaves and flowers of the Summer Nasturtiums overhang the terrace.  Their leaves casting large puddles of shade and reflecting the brightest summer light.  
Berossus, a Babylonian priest wrote about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in c. 290 BC "In this place he erected very high walls, supported by stone pillars; and by planting what was called a pensile paradise, and replenishing it with all sorts of trees, he rendered the prospect of an exact resemblance of a mountainous country.  He did this to gratify his queen {...}" We create our own personal paradises in our gardens, we fortify our souls.






raw pigment, oil paint, gesso and encaustic wax on board in an antique frame.
130.5 x 200.5cm (framed 155 x 226cm)

This monolithic scale painting is the final painting in the "Hortulus Animae: Little Garden of the Soul" series.
It is full of dramatic skies, Summer blooms blazing and fading.  There are the Sunflowers, the waves of the plants and flora within the banks of my garden.  It is a time to contemplate, reconnect with nature and discover the beauty of the small things: hear the birds sing, watch the sunlight chase the dappled shadows, and see the garden grow and seasons change.

Janus was the god of beginnings and transitions in Roman mythology.  The God of change. He was depicted as having two faces looking opposite ways, one towards the past and the other to the future.  He was present in the beginning of the world, guarding the gates of Heaven, and presided over the creation of religion, life and even the gods.








Chloe Holt is one of the youngest ever Academicians at the Royal Cambrian Academy to be elected and was selected by President and Keeper of the Royal Academy, London Maurice Cockrill RA in 2012. In 2017 She held a joint exhibition at David Simon Contemporary, Bath and has shown her work here regularly, with her first solo exhibition with the gallery at their gallery in Castle Cary, Somerset November 2020. She was awarded Fellowship of RSA (HRH Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce) in 2003. Prizes include Kyffin Williams Drawing Prize, 2012 and "Lorenzo il Magnifico" Prize for works on Paper at Florence Biennale, 2010.




Exhibition: 66

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