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The History of Watercolours

Watercolour is an ancient medium which was used from the Palaeolithic era to create many of Europe’s cave paintings, and from the Middle Ages in the illustration of manuscripts. However, the popularity of watercolour painting today can be attributed to a transformation in its use, beginning with the Renaissance, and in which the United Kingdom played a central role. 


Still Life with Two Apples by Annie Williams RBA, Watercolour, 40 x 50 cm - £900

It started when the German painter Albrecht Durer discovered that watercolours were an ideal medium for his botanical, wildlife and landscape sketches - Durer’s Young Harebeing a well-known example. After Durer, other famous artists such as Van Dyck began using watercolours for quick sketches drawn from life, often with the natural world as their subject. 

Mark by Zi Ling, Watercolour, 91 x 71 cm - £2,130

Watercolour painting as a secular art form quickly spread to the United Kingdom, where it became particularly popular. By the Eighteenth Century, the education of an aristocratic man typically involved some training in watercolours. The medium’s ability to depict changing terrain made it incredibly useful for cartographic skills relating to warfare and the charting of newly discovered lands.

The Grand Scheme of Things by Deborah Walker RI ARSMA, Watercolour, 84 x 75cm - £3,530

Expedition parties to Asia and the New World would often recruit a watercolourist to document discoveries and create mementos of their voyage. Watercolour was also used to document life closer to home; the English cleric, William Gilpin, published a series of illustrated books about rural England. The immense popularity of Gilpin’s series saw watercolour painting become known as England’s ‘national art’. 

Westminster Cathedral by Varsha Bhatia RI, Watercolour, 53 x 68 cm - £3,100

The Poet William Blake used watercolours in several books of hand-tinted engraved poetry, in illustrations of Dante’s Inferno, and in large experimental monotypes. The market for printed books was growing rapidly, and as it grew, the bound book became a collector’s item, and among the upper classes’ favourite things to collect - volumes of watercolours sketches. 

Northern River by Sheila Goodman PS, Pastel & Watercolour, 41 x 46 cm - £850

Although watercolour was now widespread, it was still somewhat confined to the page, whereas oil paintings graced the walls of Britain’s finest buildings. It was artists such as Paul Sandby ‘the father of English watercolour’, Thomas Girtin, and JMW Turner who elevated watercolours to the status of high art. These artists took a medium hitherto used for small-scale illustrations and applied it to large-scale epic romantic landscapes. 

Fresh Fat Figs by Carole Griffin RBA, Watercolour, 24 x 37 cm - £895

The confluence of all these strands of watercolour painting in the UK led to the formation of several art societies dedicated to the medium, including the Society of Painters in Water Colours, and the New Water Colour Society. In 1831, several artists founded the New Water Colour Society to challenge the Royal Academy’s refusal to accept watercolour as an acceptable medium for serious art, and to compete with the Society of Painters in Water Colours by encouraging non-members to exhibit alongside them.

Mia Amore by Rosa Sepple PRI, Watercolour, 38 x 56 cm - £2,050
This society has since changed its name to become the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, part of the Federation of British Artists and based at Mall Galleries.
 

There have been many changes in the fine art of watercolour in the 187 years since the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours (RI) began. Advancements in materials and techniques employed by today’s artists has led to interesting, colourful and dramatic paintings.

Since I became a Member of the RI in 2004, we have seen an increase in the popularity of watercolour paintings being purchased by private individuals and corporate public collections. This is reflected in the numbers of visitors to our annual exhibition. We are recognised as one of the best watercolour societies in the world and are continually looking for new Members to exhibit with us.

Rosa Sepple, President of the RI


Discover more Watercolour Paintings on Buy Art | Buy Now


Curator's Choice: Rebecca Boyd Allen

Rebecca Boyd Allen is an acclaimed American artist and representative of Winsor & Newton, who kindly sponsor the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours. After graduating from Parsons School of Design in New York and the Slade School of Art in London, Rebecca now works closely with the ColArt team, of which Winsor & Newton are a subsidiary, to share her knowledge and experience of watercolours, testing new materials and demonstrating at art events.


Browse Rebecca's choices now


With the exhibition for the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition opening soon at Mall Galleries, we thought we’d whet your watercolour whistle by inviting Rebecca to take us through her favourite watercolour works on Buy Art.

 

Annie Williams RBA

Fields of Blue II

Williams' unique blend of abstract and figurative elements creates a virtually woven surface, with rhythms of answering curves and passages of tone dissolving the boundaries between the two genres. The peppering of dark dashes and shapes adds an additional all-over pattern which further unites the whole.   

Fields of Blue II by Annie Williams RBA, Watercolour, 40 x 50 cm - £900

 

Zi Ling

The Cigarette Break

Ling’s portrait could exist as a colourful, balanced abstraction with a surface that celebrates expressive and varied textural marks. Lively colours pour from the background into the face and are off-set by bold grey shapes and an expressive line which she uses to deliver just the right amount of clarity to the features and hands. 

Cigarette Break by Zi Ling, Watercolour & Acrylic, 91 x 71 cm - £2,130
 

Shanti Panchal Hon RBA

The Arch

Using fragmented and cropped views in contrasting spaces, Panchal sets the viewer up to consider the reality of the model in an unreal and flat space of harmonious planes of colour.  The white of the figure’s eye is like a remnant of the once blank paper, and it draws my gaze into a narrative which feels meditative and still. 

The Arch by Shanti Panchal Hon RBA, Watercolour, 77 x 58 cm - £9,030

 

Colin Albrook RSMA RI

The Tunnel – Porthgwarra

Albrook has seen a relationship between the rippling patterns on the rock and the waves of the sea.  The eye is immediately drawn to the tonal contrast of the tunnel as it frames the lightest value in the sky.  Simple mark-making throughout the painting is layered to create tone via colour, recalling the work of Impressionists like Monet.

The Tunnel - Porthgwarra by Colin Allbrook RSMA RI, Watercolour, 54 x 74 cm - £2,130
 

Paul Banning RI RSMA

Tenacious at Tower Bridge Pier

Classical compositional elements, such as the foreground “repoussoir” or push-back, allude to the clarity of space for the viewer.  Banning merges the new and old London skyline by summoning an even light and balancing horizontals and verticals for a geometric focus.  By contrast, the sway of the red flag on the left, implies an arabesque surface movement which is nicely counter-balanced by the shoreline. 

Tenacious at Tower bridge Pier by Paul Banning RI RSMA, Watercolour, 55 x 75 cm - £2,630
 

Diana Sheldon

Mid-day at Kew

Sheldon has meticulously mapped out the overlap of architecture and nature in this study, which seem to celebrate the variety of negative spaces.  Lit from above, subtle interior shadows pass into the sky, perforating the stark white frame of the glasshouse. 

Mid-day at Kew by Diana Sheldon, Watercolour, 50 x 37 cm - £700

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Discover the Newest Members of the FBA

Each year, many talented artists apply to join one of the eight leading UK art societies which make up the Federation of British Artists, a major visual arts charity established in 1961 and based at Mall Galleries. Every society has their own fine-tuned process for electing new members, the yearly result of which is a group of new FBA members who are certainly artists to watch! To introduce these individuals, Mall Galleries has created an exciting selection on Buy Art | Buy Now of work by the FBA’s newest additions.


Discover the New FBA Members selection now


Hollowed Dic: Receiving the Sun by David Sprakes RBA

After showing his sculpture in the annual exhibitions and submitting a larger body of work to the society, David Sprakes RBA was elected as a member of the Royal Society of British Artists this year. “It’s an honour to become a member of such a prestigious society”, he says.

Looking Through by David Sprakes RBA

The tactile sensory qualities of objects and environments, both man-made and natural, are constant sources of inspiration to David, in whose work the themes of abstraction and erosion recur.

Paris Rooftops II by Richard Rees PS

Richard Rees PS enjoyed a successful career as an architect for forty years, but oil pastels have always been his passion. He returns to pastels now with added vigour, having recently joined the Pastel Society.

St Angelo's Fort, Malta II by Richard Rees PS

“Having now been elected a member of the Pastel Society, I have an incentive to develop my work further and I intend to continue to try new subject matter and techniques in my chosen medium” says the artist. Richard’s work is inspired by his background as an architect. He creates urban panoramas, using bright and contrasting colours to infuse his images with the dynamism of the cityscape.

Westminster Cathedral by Varsha Bhatia RI

Varsha Bhatia RI, new member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, is also an architect, but employs her professional knowledge to produce a very different effect. Varsha communicates the great beauty of buildings to her viewer through a meticulous attention to the finest details of a structure’s façade.

St Pancras Window Detail by Varsha Bhatia RI

“Having always worked in watercolours, applying to become a member of the RI was my obvious choice. I have met quite a few RI members during the annual exhibitions over the years and have gained a lot by interacting with them. Becoming a member of such a prestigious institution has opened up opportunities for me to exhibit alongside RI members, who are some of the best watercolour artists”, says Varsha Bhatia RI.

Jaisalmer Fort by Will Taylor RBA

You might be forgiven for imagining that Will Taylor RBA is also an architect, with his penchant for depicting buildings in his stunning copper plate etchings. Yet Will is a largely self-taught artist with a background in Business Consultancy, going to show that talented FBA artists hail from all backgrounds.   

Jodhpur Construction by Will Taylor RBA

Will’s architectural artwork differs from Varsha’s and Richard’s, among other ways, in its introduction of human figures as interlocutors. Buildings, or in the case of Jodhpur Construction building sites, achieve life and narrative through their utility, and the stories viewers imagine for the people residing within them.  

Eternal Whisperings of the Sea by Annie Boisseau RBA

Another welcome addition to the Royal Society of British Artists is the expressive, semi-abstract painter Annie Boisseau RBA. Annie has exhibited at Mall Galleries regularly for some years, and received the Winsor & Newton Award for painting at last year’s RBA Annual Exhibition.

Little Copse, Yellow Sky by Annie Boisseau RBA

Annie conceives of her paintings as contemporary interpretations in the tradition of romantic landscape painting. They are inspired by an emotional response to the natural world, conveyed through surges of colour and the application in layers of transparent paint to create a sense of atmosphere.

Cattle in the Midnight Sun by Frances Bell RP

Frances Bell RP joins the Royal Society of Portrait Painters this year after contributing to FBA exhibitions for many years. Bell has received numerous prizes such as the De Laszlo Foundation Award, the Winsor & Newton Young Artist Award, the Barbara Tate Award, the Artist Editor’s Choice Award, and the Sheffield University Portrait of a Woman Award.

Sunday Afternoon by Frances Bell RP

“The RP represents a forum where the art of the portrait is hallowed turf, in all its diversity and skill”, says Bell. “I’m thrilled to be a member of such a prestigious society and look forward greatly to contributing to it in the years ahead.”

Diana by Callum Stannard RBA

This represents just a small snapshot of the talent and diversity present within the FBA, whose societies’ breadth spans marine and wildlife art, portraiture, watercolours, pastels, oils and beyond, achieving in each genre and discipline a skill-level that is often unmatched elsewhere in contemporary British Art. Each year, the addition of new members signals the introduction of new ideas into the Federation of British Artists. It reminds us that talented artists can hail from any backgrounds, and that having access to a vibrant artistic community remains one of the most useful resources an artist can possess.

Congratulations and welcome to the new members of the FBA. If you’re an artist who would like to become a member, you can find out more about the societies and their membership application processes here.


Discover the New FBA Members selection now


Artist Spotlight : Peter Clossick NEAC

Peter Clossick NEAC takes us on a tour of his current work as we discuss the artist's upbringing, inspiration, and artistic practice.


Browse work by Peter Clossick NEAC


Did you grow up around art?  No, I grew up in a post-war, working class family. We lived near Kings Cross in a cramped two-bedroom council flat. My mother worked as a cleaner and my father spray-painted taxi cabs. The smell of Cellulose Thinners, when he got home at night, was the nearest I got to the “arts”. It was a difficult childhood, but through no fault of my parents.

The Hat by Peter Clossick NEAC, Oil, 40.5 x 40.5 cm - £1,700

'The Hat' is a self portrait - I was channelling Al Capone. 

How did you become a professional artist? After being expelled from Grammar School at the age of fourteen, I started attending evening life-classes at the Working Men's’ College. I realised I could draw and be creative, and that was the trigger.

How did you arrive at the style for which you're now known? I arrived at my way of working through a lot of study of painting and perception, and through an inward journey to discover myself. I’ve been influenced by the analytic style of measuring seen in William Coldstream’s work, as well as the all-over working of figures like David Bomberg, all welded together with integrity.

Joan Yardley Mills by Peter Clossick NEAC, Oil, 78 x 78 cm - £7,600

Joan Yardley Mills was Frank Auerbach's model, who sat for me for many years - a true star

Why impasto and why oils? With oils, there’s both tradition and endless malleability. The impasto brings the surface facture up to the viewer’s space while providing tension against implied depth. Painting with more material than you can deal with puts you outside the area of pictorial illustration.

What is your process for translating a sitter into a work of art? The point of transition is when the mark, coloured area or textual contrast becomes both self-referential and refers to the subject outside of itself. I never analyse this while working because I’m immersed in the physical activity; it’s only after the event that I see it.

Inside Out by Peter Clossick NEAC, Oil, 131 x 131 cm - £9,630

As it says on the tin, ‘Inside Out’ is a view from inside my studio, looking out onto the garden.

Do you have a personal philosophy about painting, and is it inspired by the philosophy of other artists? All Art is inspired by other artists; as King Lear says, ‘nothing comes from nothing’. My philosophy is to try and make a painting that speaks to me.

You work quickly but paintings can take a long time, and your painting style necessitates long periods for drying – could you talk us through that tension between speed and slowness and how it moulds your practice? To enjoy the malleability of paint, you must work wet into wet. But the true perception of results can take time. I might pick up a work that’s 10-15 years old and completely repaint it. I’ll resort to tonking, scrapping, and I’ve even used a sanding machine once or twice. TS Elliot said that true time is to be out of time, meaning that a minute can seem like an hour, or an hour like a minute. To me, painting is a fluid act, detached from time - although I sometimes surprise myself with how long I’ve taken!

Arch Farm, Cornwall by Peter Clossick NEAC, Oil, 56 x 46 cm - £2,600

For Arch Farm, I had been staying with long-term friends in Cornwall when I was seized by the urge to paint. 

How much oil paint do you get through? A lot! It’s industrial oil paint purchased in two and a half or five-litre tins. The cost per year can run into thousands.

Could you tell us about the NEAC and being a member? It’s good to be part of a larger body of artists, many of whose work I admire and can learn from. I have met many artists through the NEAC, and of course, Mall Galleries is a great central venue in which to exhibit.

Inner City Deptford by Peter Clossick NEAC, Oil, 157 x 119.5 cm - £9,630

Inner City Deptford is painted from my then Acme studio in Childers Street

Find these works and more by Peter Clossick NEAC on Mall Galleries Buy Art | Buy Now, the online home of original affordable artwork. Plus, sign up to our newsletter to receive 10% off your first purchase. If you're an interior designer, get in touch for our exclusive designer's discount. 



Browse work by Peter Clossick NEAC


Mellow Yellow

"Falcone" Watercolour by Stephen J Bragg

Browse our Mellow Yellow Selection


Whilst visiting the South of France in 1888, the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh wrote to his sister: "now we are having beautiful warm, windless weather. The sun is a light that for lack of a better word I can only call yellow, bright sulphur yellow, pale lemon gold. How beautiful yellow is!"

Little Copse, Yellow Sky by Annie Boisseau RBA

‘Lemon gold’ is a wonderful description of the colour ‘yellow’, whose official name derives from the Old English terms for both ‘gold’ and ‘yellowish’. Like ‘lemon-gold’ and ‘gold-yellowish’, there’s a sense that this colour is understood by compounding disparate ideas which, not themselves ‘yellow’, become something closer to yellow when placed together.

Perhaps part of the reason for this is that many of our best-loved yellow objects are not (strictly speaking) yellow. Van Gogh’s ‘sulphur yellow’ sun only appears so because of the incredibly high surface temperature of the sun. Casting the net wider in the natural world, things like lemons, bananas, egg yolks, daffodils and buttercups sometimes appear yellow because of a plant pigment called carotenoid.

Lemons and Grapefruit by Andrew Hitchcock

Carotenoids absorb light energy for photosynthesis and protect the green chlorophyll from photo-damage. These yellow pigments are often present in growing things, but their colour only becomes visible after photosynthesis has stopped and the amount of green chlorophyll has depleted. When a banana is picked, it will ripen and turn yellow. When the hours of daylight shorten in autumn, leaves lose their greenness and turn yellow. This transformation isn’t the addition of yellow, but the subtraction of another element which had been competing with it.

Yellow by Bernadett Timko

Recent surveys carried out in Europe, Canada, and the United States found that the colour yellow is most often associated with amusement, gentleness, humour and spontaneity. In many Asian countries, it symbolises happiness, harmony and wisdom; bright yellow was once the colour of the Middle Kingdom in China, worn only by the Emperor and his household. The ancient Egyptians reserved yellow ochre for tomb paintings of the gods, who they believed possessed skin and bones of yellow gold.

St Ives Rooftops by Stephen Parkinson

In a change of tack, Post-Classical Europe linked the colour yellow with Judas Iscariot, using it to mark and oppress non-Christians, such as ‘heretics’ during the Spanish Inquisition and Jews during Nazi Germany. With such a complex history, and a somewhat confusing presence in the natural world, it’s unsurprising that our sense of the colour yellow is often associative.

Fishing, Late Afternoon by Delia Tournay-Godfrey

The idea of yellow is strongly linked to other ideas, such as the sand on a beach; the vibrancy of a fisherman’s raincoat; the colour of corn growing in a field, or the yellow stone used to build Bethlehem.

Peak Fields by Michael Jules Lang

Discover yellow for yourself, and see what feelings and ideas each shade conjures up for you, in Mellow Yellow, our new selection on Buy Art | Buy Now.  

Bethlehem Evening by Lachlan Goudie ROI

Browse our Mellow Yellow Selection


Reception Selection : Beatrice Forshall

"Scarlet Malachite Beetle" Hand-painted drypoint engraving by Beatrice Forshall

Our new Reception Selection features work by conservationist printmaker, Beatrice Forshall, whose practice in hand-painted drypoint engraving raises awareness about endangered species, and the dangers of animal trafficking and habitat loss around the world. Beatrice's work features in conservation projects, publications, and in fine art prints such as those on Buy Art | Buy Now. Join us as we explore the stunning species in our new Reception Selection. 


Browse Beatrice Forshall's Reception Selection


Javan Green Magpie : Hand-painted Drypoint Engraving, 75 x 75 cm (85.5 x 84.5 cm) - £1,020

The Javan Green Magpie is a song bird native to Western Java and Indonesia. It’s a member of the crow family and inhabits dense mountain forests. Born blue, it becomes green due to the yellow carotenoids in its diet of lizards, insects and frogs.

In captivity, its feathers turn blue as carotenoids are destroyed by light. Loss of habitat and illegal poaching have made this bird one of the most endangered in the world, with fewer than fifty remaining in the wild.

Wildlife trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry. Bird singing competitions have become so popular that thirteen species of song bird, including the Javan Gree are now on the brink of extinction.

African Grey and Timneh Grey Parrots : Hand-painted Drypoint Engraving, 102 x 65 cm (120 x 84.5 cm)- £1,080

The Grey Parrot is one of the largest parrots in Africa, famous for its intelligence & ability to mimic human speech. It’s the world’s most traded wild bird, and is particularly susceptible to death in captivity. It’s estimated that up to 65 % of greys die before reaching export markets. 

Now recognised as a separate species, the smaller Timneh Parrot is also threatened by deforestation and illegal trafficking. 

Hyacinth Macaws : Hand-painted Drypoint Engraving, 85.7 x 75 cm (95.5 x 84.5 cm) - £1,080

Measuring up to 1m in length, the Hyacinth Macaw is the world’s largest parrot and is able to fly speeds of 35 miles per hour. It’s found in Brazil and feeds off native palms, such as the bocaiuva and acuri. The latter is so hard that it cannot be eaten until pre-digested by cattle.

The Hyacinth Mavaw can eat poisonous seeds and unripe fruit inedible to other species. This is thought to be possible because it swallows chunks of clay from river banks which help absorb the poisons. It is a messy eater and plays an important role as seed disperser. It mates for life and nests in holes in the mondavi tree, which it fills with sawdust. It only selects trees which are over 70 years old.  It’s a sociable bird, and widow and widower macaws will seek the company of another pair.

The Hyacinth Macaw is endangered because of poaching and habitat loss. The forests in which it lives are being cleared for mechanised agriculture and cattle ranching.  In the 1980’s, 10,000 were taken from the wild.

Scarlet Malachite Beetle : Hand-painted Drypoint Engraving, 54 x 54 cm (69.5 x 70.7 cm) - £850

The Scarlet Malachite Beetle is one of the UK's rarest insects. It is found in just eight sites. Its decline is thought to be due to habitat loss and the intensification of agriculture. It feeds on flowers in meadows and overgrown hedgerows. Buttercup pollen is one of its favourite foods.

Black-winged Starling and Bali Myna : Hand-painted Drypoint Engraving, 92.5 x 75 cm (114 x 84.5 cm) - £1,080

The Black-winged Starling is the national bird of Bali. Both the Starling and the Bali Myna are native to the islands of Bali, and are two of the world’s rarest birds. Both species feed on insects, nectar and fruit, and can be found nesting together.

They are highly prized for their song by collectors, and because they’re now so rare and valuable, traffickers even rob local captive breeding centres which have been set up to preserve the species.

Japanese Cranes : Hand-painted Drypoint Engraving, 87 x 117 cm (95.5 x 130.5) - £1,630

In the Orient, the Japanese crane is sacred and seen as a symbol of fidelity, love and longevity. Its wingspan measures up to 2.5 metres. Foraging in deep water, it is the most aquatic species of crane and pairs for life, performing a synchronised courtship dance. It’s found in north-eastern China, Russia, Mongolia, Korea and on the Island of Hokkaido in Northern Japan. The chicks leave their nest after only a couple of days to follow their parents on foraging trips. Due to the intensification of agriculture, industrial development, habitat loss and hunting, this species is now endangered.


Browse Beatrice Forshall's Reception Selection


These works are available to view in our reception space at 17 Carlton House Terrace, SW1Y 5BD. They can also be viewed and purchased online at Buy Art | Buy Now. For more information about how we can stop wildlife trafficking, go to www.traffic.org. For more information on how we can help save Japanese Cranes, go to www.savingcranes.org. For information on how we can help save the scarlet malachite beetle, go to www.buglife.org.uk.

Scenes of Cornwall

"The Tunnel- Porthgwarra" Watercolour & bodycolour on paper by Colin Allbrook

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Artists have been drawn to the landscapes of Cornwall for hundreds of years. J.M.W. Turner toured the region in 1811, producing a series of watercolours depicting both picturesque coastlines, and sociological portraits of the Cornish mining industry and merchant fleet. After Turner came American artist J.A.M. Whistler, who visited Cornwall in 1884 with Walter Sickert, an influential member of the Camden Town Group. The Twentieth Century then saw key figures such as Barbara Hepworth, Naum Gabo, and Patrick Heron settle in Cornwall to live and work.

The Tunnel - Porthgwarra by Colin Allbrook RSMA RI

The creative community that emerged was dynamic and world-leading, and its spirit continues today. Colin Allbrook RSMA RI emulates Turner’s twin interest in the romantic and the anthropological with his Cornish cliff scenes, in which natural beauty mingles with traces of Cornwall’s mining past. At first sight, The Tunnel - Porthgwarra appears to be an homage in watercolour to the dramatic geology of the region; the contours of the rock face, which dominate the composition, stretch and twist like a monumental muscle. Yet in the heart of the rock we see a tunnel, visible only at low tide, forged by the miners who once worked here, whose mark is indelibly left upon the landscape.

Tin Mines - Botallack by Colin Allbrook RSMA RI

Allbrook produces a similar effect in Tin Mines - Botallack, where square stippling brush strokes in greens, browns and mauve cause the verdant cliffs to merge with the miners’ huts perched above. It is not immediately evident that this remote spot has been touched by heavy industry, and on discerning these structures, Allbrook reassures us through his colour palette that there is harmony here between the manmade and the natural.

Cornwall by Robert E Wells RBA NEAC

Cornwall by Robert E Wells RBA NEAC shares this sense of peaceful co-existence, with waves lapping gently at the feet of surfers strolling along Travone beach, a scattering of clouds like so much pink candyfloss in the background. Peter Clossick NEAC portrays the environment tamed yet further in Arch Farm, Cornwall, where bright splashes of yellow and red, on the tree in the foreground and the vehicle in the background, evoke a sense of vibrant fertility in this cultivated space.

Arch Farm, Cornwall by Peter Clossick NEAC

In contrast, Lucinda Storm’s coastal skyscapes leave no question as to the supremacy of the natural world. Vast and brooding skies are reflected in the mirror of the sea below, creating a fearsome reciprocity of elemental power, which leaves the viewer little room for self-aggrandisement. One must instead share the artist’s sense of awe, and her appreciation for the refraction of light upon water that gives these Cornish scenes a spellbinding quality.

Storm on its Way by Lucinda Storm

Whether hostile and awe-inspiring or picturesque and romantic, peopled, uninhabitable, or bearing the marks of historic use, this selection of Cornish scenes by contemporary artists gestures to the manifold responses which have inspired so many works of art, and art movements, whose origins lie in this often-overlooked region of the UK.


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In the studio with Eve Pettitt

"Colourfield" Oil on Canvas by Eve Pettitt

Mall Galleries steps into the creative world of artist, Eve Pettitt, to discuss colour, the beauty of the female form, and the joy of painting.

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Seeing Red

'Red' oil painting by Bernadett Timko

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“When looking to create an image with as much energy and impact as possible, I find the power of the colour red cannot be beaten,” says artist Ian Rawling, whose photorealist works Toffee Apple and Tomato Ketchup Bottle feature in Seeing Red, the latest selection on Buy Art | Buy Now. This talented food artist was recently awarded the West Design – Faber Castell Award and the Visitor’s Choice Award at the Pastel Society Annual Exhibition 2018.

Tomato Ketchup Bottle by Ian Rawling

The sense of vigour evoked by the colour red has been recognised since ancient times, with festivals in the Roman Empire marked by the wearing of red costumes. Due to the iron oxide on its surface, Mars appears to be red. This planet was aligned with the Roman god of war, and through association, redness and vigour came to be associated with aggression and violence; gladiators were daubed with red paint before combat, and the Roman army wore red tunics.

In addition to energy and violence, popular connotations of the colour red have included everything from love and prosperity to revolution and danger. While love is often associated with red roses and hearts, red is also the colour of the universal stop sign, warning onlookers of danger. In a closer contradiction, the Catholic church employs red to signify both the blood of Christ and his martyrs, and the devil. From this cursory examination, two things become clear; firstly, red is a highly symbolic and emotionally-charged colour; secondly, that this symbolism is manifold and often antithetical and ill-defined.

The Author by Eve Pettitt

“The colour of blood, love and revolution!” says Buy Art | Buy Now artist, Eve Pettitt. “Red is bold, immersive and full of emotion; it plays a pivotal role in my work. All my paintings begin with a loose sketch in pure cadmium red, and these preliminary marks can often be seen in the final finished work.” In Pettitt’s semi-abstract painting The Author, a red wall merges with the red hair of the writing figure, suggesting an osmotic porosity between the figure’s internal and external landscapes.

Red Room by Roxana Halls

Roxana Halls also uses red to explore emotional ideas in her work; “In my painting Red Room, the intense red formally divides the composition and disconnects my suspended woman from her familiar domestic space. While this figure may be caught in stasis, there is no stillness to be found in red.” From the visual effect of perpetual motion in Eleanor Lines’ op art print Loop to the dissipating ruby ripples in Stephen J Bragg’s Burano 2, the works in Seeing Red affirm Halls’ conviction that ‘there is no stillness to be found in red’.

Loop by Eleanor Lines
Burano 2 by Stephen J Bragg

You can browse and buy works from the selection online, and while you’re browsing, why not listen along with our Seeing Red playlist on Spotify?


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Why We Paint Ourselves


Browse Me, Myself & I now


Sixteenth Century philosopher Michel de Montaigne claimed that he would rather understand himself than Cicero.

Montaigne begins his famous essay collection with the statement: ‘I desire to be viewed as I appear, without study or artifice, for it is myself I paint’. Self-analysis has been an essential practice of artists across all periods, backgrounds and disciplines. Though not all are as faithful to the facts as Montaigne, what unites many is the image of the painted self-portrait; consider James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Dylan Thomas’ parody, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog.

Self Portrait 2 by Andrew Farmer

But why is self-portraiture such a powerful genre? A self-portrait might showcase an artist’s skill or increase their celebrity, but a more profound reason for the genre’s popularity can be found in Montaigne’s initial claim. To privilege understanding of self above understanding of Cicero is to argue that self-knowledge is of paramount importance; the desire to paint oneself can then be aligned with the desire to know oneself. An interesting example of this is Caravaggio’s David with the Head of Goliath. Famous for painting himself into his works, here is a rare double self-portrait, in which both David and Goliath are modelled on the artist, contrasting associations which must have prompted self-reflection.

Self Portrait, age 37 by Benjamin Hope PS

Though an artist may not share the revelations they experience during a self-portrait, the finished work often reveals intimate facets of their character, and herein lies the appeal of self-portraiture for the viewer. To view an artist through the lens by which they view themselves is to become familiar not only with their appearance but with their sensibility. While many portrait painters would challenge Oscar Wilde’s notion that ‘every portrait painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist’, in the case of self-portraiture, the mode of representation is seen to be as direct an expression of self as the content.

Self Portrait with Lonsdale Sweatshirt by Marco Ventura

To coincide with the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2018, Mall Galleries has created Me, Myself & I, a capsule selection of self-portraits showcasing work by some of the finest contemporary portrait painters. Among the contributors are Miriam Escofet and Ania Hobson, both shortlisted artists for the prestigious BP Portrait Award 2018. Having begun her career as a landscape and wildlife painter, Hobson was drawn to portraiture by a fascination with the human form. From painting family members, the artist moved to self-portraits, one of which is now shortlisted for the BP Portrait Award.

Miriam Escofet’s Vanitas – Self Portrait is characteristic of the artist’s striking style, which often expresses gothic elements and features symbolic objects. “My paintings arrive at a kind of hyper real expression of the subject matter”, says Escofet; “the likeness and character of the sitter come first, but I am as interested in the work’s spatial and psychological depth”. To discover the works in Me, Myself & I is to gain precious insights into the characters of the artists, and into the historic tradition of self-portraiture.

Browse the collection here, and find out more about the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition here (May 10-25th).  


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