"Living and painting at the Clos du Peyronnet in Menton was an absolute dream. My studio was in the top of the tower in the belle epoque villa and it had a view along the coast to the old town of Menton from one side and a view to the Côte d'Azur from the other window. The villa had a two acre sub-tropical garden surrounding it and William Waterfield curated the garden with a rare joie de vivre and it kept to it's principals of being a garden for artists to paint. It was a complete privilege to have been resident there for a year."
Above: Artist Joanne Short and Martha-Lilly Dyer in the gardens of the Clos du Peyronnet in Menton, France
For their final year in Menton 2009 to 2010, the family occupied a large apartment on the top floor of the Clos du Peyronnet, a privately-owned villa and garden which John knew well, having painted it many times. This lovely garden, which is laid out in descending terraces with a series of cascading pools filtering into a fishpond at the bottom, was owned and maintained by William Waterfield, who would take guided tours around the garden by appointment. He made the whole family welcome and allowed them free access to the garden, played ‘Snap!’ with the girls and encouraged them to play with his Jack Russell terrier, Prickle, who appears in some of John's paintings, grinning amiably.
Above: Artist John Dyer painting at the Clos du Peyronnet in Menton, France
The story of the house and garden was re-told by William's brother Giles Waterfield in his elegiac novel The Long Afternoon (Headline Review, 2000), a fictionalised account of the lives and ultimately tragic end of their grandparents, who laid out the garden before the First World War. True to his positive, upbeat outlook, there is no hint of its sad postscript in John's paintings, but he acknowledges that, like the Giardini Hanbury, time has not been kind to the Clos du Peyronnet, as it has never been completely restored since suffering years of destruction and neglect during and after the Second World War.
Above: William Waterfield with Martha-Lilly Dyer, Joanne Short and Wilamena Dyer playing one of their regular games of 'Happy Families'.