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Shakespeare 400: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

2016 is the year of Shakespeare. It is a festival which marks the great Bard’s birth, and his death, and above all things a celebration of his incredible works, masterpieces which have shaped generations, been interpreted and reinterpreted across the centuries, and which are a core of both British and global theatre. In exploring my own reinterpretations of his plays, some 20 years after I completed my first Shakespeare collection at the age of 13, I have moved onto my second work, painted in my new interpretative abstract style.

The play is A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a comic frolic of cross-purpose love affairs, mischievous spells, sparkling forest fairies and of course the famous Donkey metamorphosis of Bottom, all set between the trees of a forest near Athens. That wonderfully magical forest setting forms the background of my work, a simplified design of vertical brown stripes, creating a sense of the darkness and depth of the forest which characterises the tone of that mystical Midsummer’s Night.

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

Central to the piece is a large yellow shape, representing the wall in the story of Pyramus and Thisbe, whose chink provides the only channel for communication for the two forbidden lovers after whom the story is named. Creating something of a play within a play, the tale of Pyramus and Thisbe (originally told by Ovid) is acted out at the end of the play by the theatre troupe from whom the actor-turned-donkey Bottom comes, and which likewise reflects the theme of forbidden love which is played out in the forbidden love between Hermia and Lysander.

It is in fact that disallowed love affair which sends Hermia and Lysander fleeing to the forest, where in their wake Helena, Hermia’s friend, and Demetrius, the man Hermia’s father wishes her to marry, follow. These four characters then become the pawn of Oberon and Titania, the King and Queen of the forest fairies whose own conflict results in a series of magical mischief which in turn results in the four youngsters of Athens variously falling in and out of love with one another while under the bewitchment of the “love-in-idleness” flower. That same juice is used to bewitch Titania, who in turn is caused to fall in love with the metamorphosed Bottom.

All this is represented by my painting of shapes and lines. The energetic lines which cross the canvas are those of Titania and Oberon, whose ballet of magical conflict weaves in and out of the play’s plot. Where they meet, and form shapes within their overlaps, these shapes represent the four young lovers, Helena, Hermia, Lysander and Demetrius. The grey triangle is of course the donkey head of Bottom, and when Titania’s “line” traverses the space, it is transformed blue, as though bewitched by Oberon. Meanwhile above Oberon’s line, the blue curve represents his faithful assistant Puck, the cheeky little fairy who mischievously applies the love-potion, and above the red triangle of Titania, the four little pink lines are her flying little fairy assistants, Peaseblosom, Cobweb, Moth and Mustardseed.

For those unaware of this brilliant play, the description above may bamboozle the mind. Where that is the case, please enjoy the painting instead, whose simplified lines and structure make, in themselves, what I hope is a thoroughly pleasing image for Midsummer’s Night.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

Contemplating our First Anniversary

It’s hard to think that a year has already past since that blissful wedding day when I married my soulmate one year ago. That small but perfectly formed little Chelsea Wedding felt so emotionally momentous that I think I have been bouncing happily in its blissful wake ever since. Yet to think that it’s been a year is rather bizarre, not least when I consider that it feels as though I was only just finishing off the last dabs of gouache on my paintings commemorating our honeymoon. How time flies. But how happily tangible are the memories still.

Our magical day

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It was in the contemplation of this anniversary that Dominik and I recently headed to Deiá, easily our favourite place on the island of Mallorca, and perhaps in the whole world. We knew that there could be no better way to celebrate a first year of marriage, and 7 years of being together. While my mother’s witty gift of toilet paper (and a little something extra) reminded that this is traditionally the “paper anniversary”, for us it was bubbles and sunshine all the way as we toasted our union in the stunningly floral grounds of the Hotel Residencia over two glasses of cava – one brut, the other rosé. In a way those two glasses appeared to represent something of our relationship and the keys to its success. Two people who are characteristically, externally different, but whose integral sameness binds us so strongly together. And all this in the most exquisite surroundings of the Teix Mountains and the Mediterranean sea. Magical.

Bubbles at the Residencia and dinner at Restaurante Nama

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While the 15th June marks our wedding anniversary, the 16th June is the anniversary of our first date. But there is something so much more special now in celebrating an anniversary of marriage, than that day of first discovery. Because while our daily life may not have changed all that much as a result of the certificate we signed, the comfort and security and wholesome oneness it has brought us can never been replicated outside of marriage. One more year has passed and another coat of time’s varnish adds an extra veneer of strength to our union. Here’s to that.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved.

My Van Gogh Bedroom heads for Beijing!

A few months ago, I was on the brink of being inspired by another great artist in creating a further painting in my interpretative abstract collection when I received an important email. It was an artist who has inspired me several times before, the one and only master of colour and of passionately applied brush strokes, Vincent Van Gogh. The email I received flew into my inbox almost at the moment when I applied my signature to canvas. I had been contacted by the prestigious Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. An opportunity had arisen, they told me, to submit contemporary artworks inspired by Van Gogh to be considered for a new globally important project. I did not hesitate to apply, and amongst those works I sent was the new work I had been working on when their email had been received: Vincent’s Bedroom, an abstractive interpretation of Van Gogh’s most famous work depicting his bedroom in the Yellow House in Arles, and presented here on The Daily Norm for the first time.

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Vincent’s Bedroom (after Van Gogh) (2016, ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

A few weeks passed, and I was delighted to receive the news that not only had this new painting been accepted by the prestigious museum, but likewise two others painted when the same Dutch genius inspired me in the past: The Sweet Potato Eaters (based on Van Gogh’s famous The Potato Eaters) and my Norm version of his Self-Portrait with bandaged ear.

The months rolled by, during which time I waited in excited anticipation to hear from the museum what would happen to the images of my work. Thrillingly, it has now been announced that digital reproductions of my paintings will be included as part of a brand new interactive exhibition, the Meet Vincent Van Gogh experience, which will premier in Beijing in China before going off on tour. I may not have travelled anywhere near as far, but I am overwhelmed with pride that images of my paintings will be going in my place to the other side of the globe.

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The original inspiration: Bedroom in Arles by Vincent Van Gogh (first version, 1888 – Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam)

All that remains is to wish the Van Gogh Museum the best of luck in this exiting new venture, and to thank them in turn for their incredible support of my work. It’s not the first time I have been lucky enough to have my work included in an installation by that world-renowned museum, but it is a uniquely new experience for my works to go to Asia. You never know, I may get over to China myself to see them.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

The Wrestlers (after Courbet)

I adore art, especially the masterpieces of old, and I spend a lot of my time gazing in admiration at the works of the old masters and the more recently celebrated artists of the 20th century. However, of all the works I see, only a few inspire me to recreate the work in my own way. Velázquez´s Las MeninasTitian’s Bacchus and Ariadne and Rubens’ Descent from the Cross are three such works which have recently driven me to paint the old masterpieces afresh, and a few weeks ago, another chance encounter had a similar effect.

It was on Instagram in fact that I stumbled across this most recent inspiration – a work by the French master, Gustave Courbet, The Wrestlers – which the instagram user had also discovered for the first time. Painted in 1853, in the typical realist style for which Courbet was best known, and which saw him break away from the classical genre style of painting which was predominant in the mid-19th century, the work is not one I have seen before, perhaps because it is housed in the Fine Arts Museum in Budapest. But as soon as I saw it on the screen of my iPhone, I was struck by the incredible energy of the wrestlers, and the brilliant realism of their taught muscles, interlinked as they strain and struggle against each other – a fantastically visceral image in contrast with the refined crowds watching them from civilised stands in the background.

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The Wrestlers (after Courbet), 2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas

It didn’t take long for my own version of the image to form in my head, following my new interpretative abstract style with which to give the work a new treatment. I have included some realistic elements myself, in homage to Courbet, but for the most part my reinterpretation is highly abstracted, not least the central figures themselves. This was by far the most difficult element to complete, and it took me some 20+ attempts before I was happy with the final abstract form. Unsure whether to separate the figures, or paint them as one, I latterly settled on a unified form, since the wrestlers in Courbet’s original are so obviously, almost erotically combined into a single star-like figure. The cadmium red colour however was clear as soon as I saw, around the same time as discovering the Courbet work, a photo of a brilliant red Alexander Calder mobile against a green grassy background. I knew from that moment that my wrestlers had to be red, creating a central contrast which is key to the balance of the painting. And so it was born.

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The Wrestlers (1853) by Gustave Courbet (Fine Arts Museum, Budapest)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

Discovering Mallorca: Pollensa Revisted

Living on an island so ripe with beauty tends to make discovery of the new a prerequisite. But there is something to be said for rediscovery too. How many times have I returned to my beloved village of Deia for example, and found some new reason to love the place on each visit? And so, having avoided returning to the little Tramuntana town of Pollensa because I had subconsciously listed it as “done”, I was surprised to find that when we headed back there last weekend, more through necessity than anything else (i.e. the sun had disappeared rendering the planned beach day a non-starter), I fell in love with the town afresh.

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Sometimes overlooked by its altogether more glitzy port, the town of Pollensa is a true diamond in amongst the mountainous rough of the Northerly tip of Mallorca. Built very consistently throughout in a warm ochre stone, and containing its fair share of quaint cobbled shopping streets and bustling leafy squares, Pollensa is a perfectly formed little Mallorca town, free from many of the modern pollutants which have marred many of the island’s coastal resorts. At its centre, the 18th century Nostra Senyora Del Angels church may look fairly plain from the outside but hides a startlingly ornate interior complete with multi-coloured ceiling frescoes and glittering ornamentation.

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Behind it, the greatest attraction of all is undoubtedly the town’s Calvari steps, a staircase of some 365 steps rising up against the mountains which form the backdrop of the town and which lead those with sufficient energy to complete the climb to the Calvari Church and some of the best views of the town.

With an effortless swagger, we ascended the Calvari steps with far greater ease than on our first trip to the town some 4 years ago (thanks no doubt to increased gym efforts and lamentably fewer cupcakes) and there reflected on the success of this return trip to Pollensa, bemoaning why it had taken us so long to rediscover it. For as these photos show, all of which benefit from a pleasingly creamy antique-style filter, Pollensa is a town loaded with atmosphere, and which makes for the perfect visit, no matter how many times you choose to go.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Shakespeare 400: Richard III

It probably will not have escaped your notice (particularly if you live in the UK) that this year marks 400 years since the death of Britain’s most famous ever playwright and poet, William Shakespeare. And across the country and beyond there has been something of a resurgence of interest in his work. This, together with the coincided discovery of a Shakespearian theatre troupe out here in Mallorca aroused my own Bard reawakening, not least because I have a little anniversary all of my own – some 20 years since I painted, at the tender age of 13, my first ever substantial collection of paintings which just happened to be a scene from every one of Shakespeare’s 37 plays.

So with one thing leading to another, it wasn’t long before I felt old inspirations stir up, and the decision to once again tackle Shakespeare as an inspiration for my art took hold.

Richard III (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

Richard III (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

First off the rack is this painting of one of the Bard’s history plays, Richard III. Painted in my new style, interpretative abstraction, the work appears simple but in fact represents the story of Richard III in three clear aspects. First, the three piles of what one could mistake for bricks or books represents, at the painting’s most simplistic visual level, the “III” of Richard in roman numerals. The second meaning is the allusion to the famous scene whereby the Duchess of York (Richard’s mother), Queen Elizabeth (his dead brother’s wife) and Queen Margaret (the previously exiled wife of the former King Henry VI) meet together and bemoan and curse the Machiavellian rise of Richard III to power.

That rise is finally, and most importantly represented by the same three pillars of blocks, each of which depict an important part of the story: The central column is the staircase which tracks Richard’s bloody ascent through the rungs of power to be King, with the slash of the golden crown shining boldly at the top; the column on the right is the Tower of London and in it the two yellow cubes are the two blond princes, the true heirs to the throne who Richard famously kills in the tower in order to clear his path to the crown; and the column on the left, with its overlapping grey forms like medieval armour, represents the Battle of Bosworth at which Richard was finally defeated.

It seems remarkable that some 20 years have passed since I painted my teenage Shakespeare collection, especially now as I rediscover the same excitement which his plays engendered in me all those years ago. Now I’m looking forward to the challenge of finding them again, and painting them afresh (albeit perhaps not all 37…!).

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

Descent from the Cross (After Rubens)

They often say that something much sought after is better found when you stop searching. And that’s exactly what happened when it came to discovering a new inspiration for my next abstract project. As soon as I completed my abstracted interpretation of Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne, I was hungry for another art historical challenge. But search as I might, nothing quite ticked the boxes for me. Fast forward a few weeks to Easter and my parents’ stay in Mallorca. When I returned from a quick easter-egg countering visit to the gym, my parents where extolling the virtues of a certain “Descent from the Cross” painting which had been presented on TV as part of an Easter special. As my interest peaked, I searched for the painting on google. And although, as it turned out, I didn’t come directly to the painting which had been the subject of the documentary, the Descent I found struck me like a bolt of lightening: The Descent from the Cross by Peter Paul Rubens. My new project had been found!

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Descent from the Cross (after Rubens) 2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic and oil on canvas

Painted between 1612-1614, The Descent from the Cross is the central panel of a triptych which forms the second of Rubens’s great altarpieces for the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp. Featuring some 9 of Christianity’s most important figures, and filled with the diagonal action tracking the descent of Christ’s body from the cross, it is a veritable masterpiece of both composition and colour. What struck me when I first saw the painting was the light – this incredible white light shining from the centre of the painting and glowing in contrast to the dark stormy sky behind. Not only that, but the colours used by Rubens are likewise inspiring, not least the magnificent red tunic of St John and the vivid blue of the Madonna.

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The Descent from the Cross – the Rubens original

This light, colour and the brilliance of Ruben’s composition formed the central tools of my reinterpretation which I present today. It is a work which follows the same colour palette and compositional alignment of the Rubens original, albeit that the figures are paired down to abstract forms, as is the central exercise of my new interpretative abstract method. This painting is nevertheless embellished by some more realistic elements, and most notably at all, the work is finished off with a distinctive marble antiquity-style torso replacing the main Christ figure. At some 120cm in height, and with the same dramatically looming thunderous sky as its backdrop, my Descent from the Cross is certainly a centrepiece in my new collection, and the fruit of a period of very enjoyable but laborious work.

I’m on the search for my next project. But as with the Rubens, I’m going to wait for it to come to me.

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

Across the Water to Menorca, Part 4: Virgin Beaches

So after all the sun shone on our weekend in Menorca, and while our stay saw its fair share of grey skies tumbling across the island, the times of sunshine were all the more remarkable by contrast. And for my final post of my little Menorca season, I am sharing photos captured on a long sunny Sunday afternoon, where the sun did nothing so well as to magnify the sheer stupefying beauty of Menorca’s natural scenery.

For where Menorca lacks in the city buzz of Palma here on its neighbouring island of Mallorca, it gains in the untouched virgin landscape which nature has left for us humble visitors to enjoy. Just as I thought Mallorca’s beauty could not be beaten, along came the calas (coves) of Menorca whose colours just blew my mind. There, the sands were so white, so pure and unsullied by the slightest hint of humans, that as they slowly descended beneath the fringe of the mediterranean coastline, they did so creating a paradisal cerulean blue melting into darker azure tones. Across the waters, the crystal clear seas shone and glimmered, and just underneath the surface, one could admire the camouflage effect of the odd rocky outcrop contrasting against the golden surface of the seabed.

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We could have quite easily spent months visiting the many calas which pepper Menorca’s coastline, such are their number, but we satisfied ourselves with the double whammy of the Cala Macarella and its smaller even more beautiful sister, the Cala Macarelleta, just around the corner. Approached through a densely planted aromatically fragrant pine forest, both beaches are a sight to behold and a treat for all the senses. The waters are every bit the match of the Caribbean, untouched, unspoilt and in the month of May blissfully underpopulated (save for the odd nude bather).

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Here in the Mediterranean, paradise always feels very close at hand, but in the calas of Menorca, I feel we had practically made it.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Across the Water to Menorca, Part 3: Ciutadella

When we saw the weather forecast for our weekend in Menorca we were on the verge of cancellation. We even went so far as to check the cancellation charges, as rain descended upon the Mediterranean. Could it be possible, we asked ourselves? Surely it couldn’t rain in Menorca. But as it was, we decided to go, lured by the promise of hotel pampering and a change of environment, and as it happened it didn’t rain all the time as the weatherman had promised. In fact for at least 60% of the time, the sun shone delightfully.

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Consequently, our experience of Ciutadella, the beautiful second city of the island in which we based ourselves was something of a mixed weather bag, as we dodged rainfall, spent our time in more cafés and restaurants drinking wine than could perhaps be justified, and constantly revisited the same sights in the hope of capturing the best photos of the famous pink-tinged sandstone which characterises the city. The collection which results is therefore one which shows not only the beautiful city, one filled with little cobbled lanes and impressive palatial buildings, but also the weather conditions which changed its character. I especially love those photos when the buildings are almost illuminated by a hazy sun, but where the promise of a menacing dark rain storm looms in the background.

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Whatever the weather, there is no doubting the charm of Ciutadella as a holiday destination. Far prettier (in my opinion) than Menorca’s primary city of Mahon, it’s hard to see Ciutadella as a city with some 20,000 inhabitants only. However, there is something truly cosmopolitan about its main square surrounded by baroque and classical facades and an impressive town hall built on the ruins of an old Moorish Alcazar, not to mention it’s imposing cathedral whose box like character looks like a large lump of peach coloured soap, complete with gargoyle detailing and a not displeasing perfume of incense.

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The city also benefits from a very beautiful little port which takes advantage of a natural inlet which creeps into the city from the nearby outer coastline from where the views of Mallorca are truly stunning. Back in the centre, this small city can be enjoyed at its bustling best around the popular Placa Llibertat Market, or in the crowded little arched shopping arcade, Ses Voltes, all white washed of course in the Menorcan fashion.

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The Market of Plaça de la Libertad

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Come rain, come shine, Ciutadella is Menorca’s gem. A little historical focal point on an island otherwise characterised by its uninhabited open spaces and utterly unspoilt natural beauty.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Across the Water to Menorca, Part 2: Pedreres de s’Hostal

There is something about the largely uninhabited central landscape of Menorca that gives it a mystical enigmatic quality like a magical bucolic setting for Tolkien’s hobbits or something out of Wonderland. But this sensation was deeply magnified at Pedreres de s’Hostal just outside the small city of Ciutadella. Formed out of a vast landscape of old and not-so-old sandstone quarries, the organisation Lithica has done the impossible, transforming what could have been an industrial waste land into the most stunningly unique gardens you are likely to see.

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What makes the gardens so unique is the landscape. The shapes left my stone cutters long ago are surreal to say the least. In sharp angular spaces of yellow rock, plants and flowers of every Mediterranean variety appear to have reclaimed the land from the hand of man as they twist and turn across the rock’s surface. Amongst unique anthropomorphic shapes, trees scatter light and herbs their heady aroma. My favourite two gardens were a pristine medieval courtyard garden set within one of the deepest mines like the cloister of a monastery, and a medicinal herb garden planted amongst a twisting path of stone.

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At the centre of it all are two vast mines more recently quarried, in the largest of which a labyrinth has been crafted from stone. Led into the maze by the challenge of finding the centre, we felt almost mythical in amongst a near Minoan landscape of ochre, half expecting the Minotaur to rear up before us at any turn. With the walls soaring up around us at the most peculiar angles, it was truly like being in a fantasy world.

Sadly the weather that graced our visit was for the most part vexingly cloudy. Nevertheless the photos I took are full of the magical spirit of this place, and when, at the end, the sun finally shone, it was like the golden reward bestowed upon us as the centre of the labyrinth was reached.

More information on the gardens can be found at www.lithica.es

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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