YORK artist Mark Braithwaite has been given unrestricted access to Newby Hall for his latest exhibition.

On show at Robin and Lucinda Compton's country house from today will be Mark's new series of figurative oil paintings and pencil sketches of his models in curve-caressing dresses, pictured in the hall's interiors and gardens paintings.

"I was invited by the Newby Hall estate, who wanted to put on a figurative exhibition and were looking for someone from Yorkshire to do the show.

"It's difficult to find an artist who can do the volume of work to fill the exhibition room as it's massive, and even I've been struggling to fill it, but I've done it," says Mark, who made two visits to Newby in December.

On the first he worked out "what we could do"; for the second, on a sunny winter's day, he was accompanied for a preparatory photographic shoot by his model Lizzie, an Edinburgh University classics student from North Yorkshire, whose poise is testament to her earlier training in dancing.

Mark began the resulting paintings in January, and these new works will be exhibited alongside more of Mark's figurative work in the Grantham Room. There will be 60 pictures in all, 30 of them originals, 20 newly painted, four of them so new that they are still awaiting completion for later addition during the exhibition run.

"It was a privilege to have access to such a beautiful location. To capture the romance and drama of the hall on canvas was a joy," says Mark, whose paintings show some of the hall's outstanding features, notably the Louis XV clock in the Red Passage and the Venetian gondola staircase in the Victorian wing.

Laura Strangeway, art exhibition manager at Newby, is "very excited" about Mark's work going on display this Easter. "It has made the exhibition so much more personal to Newby seeing Mark sketch during the winter months and seeing his final art work go on display to the public," she says.

From humble beginnings as a pavement artist in York, Mark now works from his studios at the Braithwaite Gallery in Low Petergate, York.

Paintings by this self-taught artist sell worldwide and his figurative work is published by national publisher Solomon & Whitehead. Among works in progress is a painting for Daily Mail astrologer Jonathan Caineroh, and another baby on the way for Mark and his pregnant wife, Anne.

  • The exhibition will run at Newby Hall, near Ripon, from today until April 27; openings hours are 11am to 5pm, Tuesdays to Sundays and on Easter Monday. Visitors are welcome to buy any of the exhibits at princes ranging from £2,500 to £4,500 for the oils and £500 to £700 for the sketches.

Charles Hutchinson