The romance of Rose Hill is a story that begins long before the Gothic Revival home was built in the 1850s.
It actually goes back to 1718 when King Charles II granted the land to Sir John Colleton. Today, the story continues, though, over time, the house and properties have experienced a number of iterations and dramatic changes.
The good news is that not only is the current version of the landmark Rose Hill Plantation House in place, you may visit it. More to our artistic and historic purpose, you may visit it through Alexandra Sharma’s interpretations of the Rose Hill Plantation Home, as well as the Belfair property and its historic Corinthian columns, by way of a series of the 30 recent watercolors, “Historic Belfair and Rose Hill: Intimate and Revealing Watercolors.”
Sharma explained that she has always enjoyed finding scenes and objects in hidden or forgotten places. A recent circumstance made it possible for her to discover the Belfair Mansion and Rose Hill in new ways.
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“During a kind of accidental moment at an art show, I met Iva Welton, who not only was a long time Hilton Head Island resident, historian and volunteer but even ... Iva’s family ... actually purchased and developed Rose Hill Plantation, along with the property upon which the Belfair Mansion was located.”
Welton said she loved the concept of Sharma creating the paintings, and she gave her access to her photographs and scrapbooks, all of the Belfair Mansion and the Rose Hill Plantation House. There were letters, bills of sale, obituaries, autographs and even pieces of historic wallpaper. Sharma said all of those fragments of history became a source of information for her paintings. They provided her an intimate and alluring glimpse of the private, forgotten and lost places she felt so strongly about.
“You must understand, as you view Alexandra’s paintings, that they are of places, settings, really, that will never be seen again,” said Welton. “The old Belfair House no longer exists, except for the four magnificent Corinthian columns, now setting off a modern home. And the Rose Hill Plantation home, which still stands ... has undergone a series of important changes and challenges over time.”
Sharma’s 30 watercolor paintings will be in place March 7 at the Walter Greer Gallery of the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina. They are enchanting, artful pieces and are unapologetically sensual. She portrays the atmosphere beautifully and offers the settings of these two important, historic homes and buildings.
“What astonishing subjects for my paintings,” said Sharma. “Belfair, a mysterious great house with a fatal staircase and structural issues — now destroyed, and Rose Hill, a survivor through periods of abandonment, a fire and final restoration.”
Artist, musician, teacher and writer Nancy K. Wellard focuses on portraying and promoting the cultural arts, first in Los Angeles and, for close to 30 years, in the Lowcountry. Email her at email@example.com.
At a glance
Born into a family of artists, Alexandra Sharma learned early a unique awareness of form and space that is seen in her work. A painter, print maker, sculptor and art professor, Sharma has a fine arts degree and has studied at the Sorbonne and Oxford University. Her work spans over 25 years, and she is known for unique visual imagery and her ability to “capture the moment.” Sharma exhibits regularly at the Charles Street Gallery in Beaufort and at the Art League of Hilton Head Island.
Iva Welton attended Salem College in Winston-Salem, N.C., where she met and married David Welton. Both attended UNC Chapel Hill. Dave, who had become a developer, was shown, with his brother, John, the iconic Rose Hill Gothic Revival Plantation House, sitting back on the Colleton River in the 2,000 acre Rose Hill Plantation in Bluffton. The brothers bought the plantation and planned a private, residential community. Iva Welton, the quintessential historian and volunteer, past president of the Beaufort County Historical Society and life member of the Heritage Library Foundation, began researching the history of the house and immersing herself in the history of the architecture and of its previous owners. She studied preservation and restoration at SCAD and saw to the house being placed on the National Register of Historic Places.