Frame of Mind

FX invites architects and designers to select their favourite artworks and tell us why they inspired them

Claire Menzies

CLAIRE MENZIES is the chairwoman and founder of Bristol-based creative collective Istoria Group, which includes exhibition designers Ignition, hospitality and retail designers Phoenix Wharf and digital agency Tiny Spark. She is an RSA fellow, a lifelong entrepreneur and a passionate sustainability advocate.

© The National Gallery, London

I first saw this when a friend’s mother took us to the National Gallery in the late 1970s when I was staying with them after temporarily falling out with my family. My father was becoming increasingly evangelical, just as I wanted more freedom – and this painting spoke to that mindset perfectly. The extraordinary blues of the sea and sky first drew me in, but the story was the hook. Ariadne has been abandoned by Theseus, but rather than being dejected, she is livid with anger – just what the newly-arrived Bacchus falls for. It’s a brilliant depiction of love at first sight.

© The Tate

I was born the day after Bonfire Night and the magic of children’s faces lit up at night – whether by sparklers or lanterns – has always been special to me, reminding me of that time of year. Sargent insisted on painting the girls – Dolly and Polly, sisters in real life and daughters of the illustrator Frederick Barnard – at exactly the same time each evening, in order to get the light just right. His insistence on authenticity is such a great part of this painting’s special atmosphere.

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