SALISBURY and South Wiltshire Museum is preparing for a major exhibition celebrating the work of the versatile British artist Rex Whistler.

The collection will continue the museum’s series of shows exploring the work of significant artists with connections to south Wiltshire, which began with Constable & Salisbury in 2011 before last year’s Art in the Shadow of Cranborne Chase.

Whistler (1905-44) was a prominent and prolific artist between the first and second world wars.

He produced murals, stage designs and book illustrations, as well as portraits, designs for the decorative arts and commercial material.

He leased Walton Canonry in Salisbury’s Cathedral Close, which is sometimes known as Whistler House, and spent time at Wilton House.

The Wilton Estate’s Palladian Bridge features in much of his work and he also painted at Mottisfont Abbey and Ashcombe House.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Whistler joined the Welsh Guards, training as a tank commander on Salisbury Plain, where he not only painted and sketched many of his fellow soldiers, but also transformed the interior of the officers’ mess by painting it as a Bedouin tent.

He was killed on his first day in action in Normandy in 1944.

The rotating Rex Prism, engraved by Whistler’s brother, Sir Laurence Whistler, as a memorial, is displayed in the Morning Chapel of Salisbury Cathedral.

This exhibition, which covers Whistler’s whole career, focuses on his Wiltshire connections. The show includes around 75 items that demonstrate his importance as a painter.

There are loans from several collections, and a number of items will be exhibited in public for the first time.

It is hoped the Rex Whistler Archive, which includes drawings, designs, photographs and letters, can be bought by the museum and housed in Salisbury permanently.

Whistler’s nephew, film-maker Daniel Whistler, is making a short film to introduce the exhibition.

  •  Rex Whistler: A Talent Cut Short opens at the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum from May 24 until September 29.
  •  The museum is seeking volunteers to steward the galleries during the exhibition.

A meeting is being held on February 27 at 2pm. If you are interested in attending contact Jan Thorne at or call 01722 332151.