Updates from Mall Galleries Art Consultancy - specialising in commissioning and curating fine art for private collectors, corporate clients and interior designers.

Naval Commissions

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Royal Society of Marine Artists member Rowena Wright was commissioned to paint HMS Trumpterer for Cdr Tim Henry RN, currently the commanding Officer of HMS Ocean. 

HMS Trumpeter is an Archer-class P2000-type patrol and training vessel of the British Royal NavyTrumpeter is assigned to Cambridge University Royal Naval Unit, having previously acted as the training ship for the Bristol University Royal Naval Unit.

She served in the Gibraltar Squadron alongside Ranger commencing 1991 under commanding officer Lieutenant Richard Morris. With Ranger she was deployed on the Thames for the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant to assist in security and partake in the pageant. She also assisted in security for the 2012 London Olympics.

This is the third ship to carry the name HMS Trumpeter. It was built by Watercraft, launched 1986, completed by Vosper-Thorneycroft Sep-1988, and commissioned 1988. It was deployed to Gibralter Squadron until August 2003, then assigned to Bristol University, University Royal Navy Unit but still took part in the Trafalgar 200 Fleet Review.

Text by Carmel Shayle

Image credit

Rowena Wright RSMA, HMS Trumpeter, Oil on canvas, 80x50cm

Top Ten Portrait Painters 2015

Robbie Wraith RP, Burlesque, Oil, 117 x 168 cm, POA

The Top Portrait painters this year are Phoebe Dickinson, Robbie Wraith and Keith Breeden.

The current Top Ten portrait painters are Phoebe Dickinson, Robbie Wraith, Keith Breeden, Brendan Kelly, Frances Bell, Paul Brason, Anthony Connolly, David Cobley, Valeriy Gridnev and Toby Wiggins.

Keith Breeden RP, Professor Lord Krebs of Wytham, Principal of Jesus College, Oxford, Oil, 100 x 90 cm, NFS

These are the artists who received the most enquiries at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters’ Annual Exhibition at Mall Galleries. This is a showcase for contemporary portraiture with over 200 works on show comprising work by 42 eminent members and the 87 non-member artists who entered the best works through the open submission.

Phoebe Dickinson, Carson on Set at Highclere Castle, Oil, 35 x 18 cm, NFS

Interestingly Phoebe Dickinson, - whose tiny portrait of Carson, the character from the television series ‘Downton Abbey’, - attracted much attention, is the only non-member artist on this list but she is the one who received the most enquiries. Phoebe started training in Florence at Charles H Cecil Studios, Lavender Hill Studios practicing printmaking at the Prince’s Drawing School and Heatherly's School of Fine Art.

Valeriy Gridnev and Keith Breeden often vie for first and second place but this year two of Valeriy Gridnev’s major works were held up by the paperwork required by customs on their way over from Russia and did not reach the gallery in time for the show.

Valeriy Gridnev RP, Guitarist, Oil, 66 x 105 cm, NFS

Many of the people enquiring are considering commissioning a portrait so hopefully the artists will enjoy patronage over the coming months and years as well as accolade.

For anybody who missed the show and would like to commission a portrait all is not lost; I am available throughout the year by appointment!

Annabel Elton

Head of Commissions

More works from the Top Ten Portrait Painters

All works were exhibited at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2015

Paul Brason RP, Sir Alan Battersby, Oil, 97 x 107 cm, NFS

David Cobley RP NEAC, Neil Osborn, Oil, 97 x 127 cm, NFS

Anthony Connolly, Annunziata, Oil, 50 x 40 cm, NFS

Brendan Kelly RP, Fabio, Acrylic, 100 x 112 cm, £8,500

Toby Wiggins RP, Guy Bamford at Dunshay Studio, Oil, 135 x 85 cm, NFS

Francis Bell Assoc RP, Self Portrait (Part 1, 2, and 3), Oil, 53 x 58 cm

Image credit

Robbie Wraith RP, Burlesque (detail), Oil, 117 x 168 cm, POA

Marine Commissions | Geoff Hunt PPRSMA

Geoff Hunt PPRSMA on his commission HMS Warspite at the Battle of Calabria, 7 July 1940
At 127 x 162cm, this is one of the largest paintings I have been asked to do. The client was a Chilean gentleman with a particular interest in the Royal Navy, and I had the pleasure of meeting and travelling with him in Chile so that we could talk about Chilean naval history in return. Though a sizeable painting, as a ‘ship portrait’ this was a straightforward work, a portrayal of what is now a fairly obscure naval action in which the famous HMS Warspite scored a hit on her Italian opposite number at the record-breaking range of 24 kilometres. As always, I researched the original information to create this painting from the original ship’s logbook, in the National Archive. The painting itself is now on extended loan to the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth (HMS Britannia) where it is currently on display adjacent to the Senior Gun Room.

Mall Galleries art consultants regularly commission RSMA artists for companies and private individuals with a connection to marine and port life.

The Royal Society of Marine Artists October exhibition celebrates the sea and the marine environment in all its variety - from the deep sea to quiet harbours, from super-tankers to sailing dinghies, from all that is beside the sea to what lies under it. On show will be over 300 works by some of the most celebrated marine artists at work today.

To commission Geoff Hunt please contact

Image credit

Geoff Hunt, HMS Warspite at the Battle of Calabria, 7 July 1940 (detail)

A Room With a View

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Throughout art history artists have painted the view from windows, whether their own or others.  The Federation of British Artists is no exception and some of our most popular paintings depict these interior-exterior scenes.

Commissioning a view from one’s window is a highly personal way of engaging with this subject matter. It's a great opportunity to capture for posterity a sentimental scene from your home, office, favourite childhood spot or any other meaningful site.

The commissioning process is tailored to best suit you. Mall Galleries represents a wide variety of artists with a broad range of styles enabling you to select the individual who would best do justice to your vision. The artist you collaborate with will be able to work from your photographs, make working sketches or paint directly on site to create a work that will permanently record your chosen vista.

This has long been a popular subject for artists reaching far back to the Romans, with their convincing Trompe L’oeils, and to the Renaissance. Your panorama might be inspired by the Old Masters or the early modernists, by Antonello da Messina’s masterpiece Saint Jerome in his Study or Monet’s Boulevard des Capucines.

Have a look below to see examples of our artist’s interpretations of such a view.

Contact to arrange a private consultation.

Text by Carmel Shayle

Header image: View from the Islands by Jenny Wheatley

Still Life with Mirrors by Chris Aggs

Bloomsbury Back Garden by Melissa Scott-Miller

Greenwich Street by Alex Fowler

Peeling Apples by Jane Corsellis

White Orchid by Delia Cardnell


Portrait Commissions are thriving


Portrait commissions are thriving…is it the desire to engage with the creative process, to form something more permanent or deeper, or just to remember something you loves?

Have you ever wondered why are we so drawn to having those we love or esteem portrayed by an artist?

The Royal Society of Portrait Painters placed a record number of commissions last year (a rise of 62% from 2013) despite the onslaught of the photograph, the digital age and the selfie. We are deeply drawn to and fascinated by the human face; physiologically recognition of human face is perhaps the most the most highly developed visual skill in humans but this does not explain why we want to engage an artist to take a likeness.

The portrait commission is a personal and private transactionthe fruition of a relationship and the transformation of the sitter through the imagination of the artist.  Research by Natalie Delgardo shows that thoughts of immortality and legacy is part of it but that this is at a more subconscious level. 

For my part I love to sit, and often wonder why. I like to be part of the creative process whilst held in stillness, to get to know and understand the artist and perhaps to become tainted by their talent. The portraits of our children have become more precious with the passing of time and are the icons I refer to rather than photographs when remembering them at that particular age.  The portraits are beautiful objects and in addition the artist had caught something of their essence whilst holding on to something fleeting. It is a strange alchemy!

Annabel Elton, Head of Commissions

Contact our Commissions team now or visit the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Open Exhibition and discuss commissioning a portrait with our Commissions Team

Image credit

Annabel Elton & Anna Bromwich - Mall Galleries Art Consultancy

A Riverside Home


Lisa Graa Jensen RI has a very distinctive style, so we were all intrigued to see how her painting of Mall Galleries client, Nigel’s home would materialise. He had long-since been a big fan of Lisa’s work and hoped that her fun and warm style perfectly aligned with his choice of subject matter.  Both figurative and inventive, Lisa’s picture is more than just a portrait.

Nigel tells us “The commission was delightfully consistent with my expectations and continues to give my wife and I a great deal of pleasure”, and that they have since acquired a further work by Lisa, bringing their collection of her works up to three.

Lisa also found the experience enriching, reflecting that "Having had a narrow boat for ten years, I know the River Thames reasonably well; and love painting canals and rivers; so I was delighted to be asked to do a painting of Nigel's really interesting house on stilts by the Thames. He wanted all the surrounding flora and fauna and passing river craft to encapsulate the beautiful relaxing place in which he lives."


Henley House Lisa Graa Jensen RI

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Image credit

Henley House by Lisa Graa Jensen

Bruce Pearson SWLA demo at NAPF Insurance Conference 2014


Wildlife artist Bruce Pearson SWLA was a fish out of water in October at one of the UK's key Insurance conferences.

The National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) is the leading body in the UK for providing services to those involved in workplace pensions. They held their annual conference this year in central Liverpool, on 15th and 16th October 2014.

Bruce was in attendance, working hard to promote the Society of Wildlife Artists, Federation of British Artists (FBA) and the Pension Insurance Corporation (PIC), with whom the FBA maintain an active relationship with after the PIC commissioned a series of Penguin paintings.

He sketched throughought each day, attracting interest to PIC's stand. He offered lessons to eager bystanders and at the end of the day provided PIC with two of his own works, to give out as prizes. Both artist and corporation were really pleased with the day.

Max Angus SWLA Talks Wildlife Art Prints


Hi Max, tell us about your work?

Ever since I was a child, I have loved drawing ‘life’ as a subject. I used to draw portraits but as a portrait artist, one is relatively bound to commissions. I discovered printmaking and found endless possibilities in wildlife, which allows me to both accept commissions and exhibit.

How do you go about creating one of your works?

I use a sketchbook to capture a subject found either in my garden at home, or by sitting for hours in a bird hide, the corner of a field or the lea of a hedgerow. I find using a pencil is difficult enough to capture the movement; colour would be just too difficult. Back in the studio, the linocuts lend themselves to the outlines and whilst I do check the colours of the wildlife in bird guides, I often get carried away trying to achieve a pleasing artwork.

What would be artistically challenging for you?

Trying to sketch wildlife on water or in water. Water-based wildlife moves with different actions. I generally spot wildlife in fairly constant poses.

Do you own any works of art, except your own?

I love other people’s work and especially printmakers. I’ve run out of wall space. It feels a little vain to only have your own work to look at.

Tell us about your membership of the SWLA?

I am very proud to be part of the SWLA and the FBA. I first exhibited in 2006 at The Mall Galleries with a special tryptic, ‘Only Coots go for it!’ Over the next few years I had more work accepted and was made an Associate. Full Membership followed a couple of years on. During the 2014 exhibition I have been asked to assist a printmaking workshop with Bob Greenhalf SWLA. I have always refused to give lessons and my studio is a very private place. I create work in very different ways from how I was originally taught. For the SWLA workshop I am sure I will be letting out many secrets.

What would you say was the benefit of commissioning a work of art from a member of the FBA?

Buying or commissioning an artist’s work has to be first and foremost about acquiring an artwork that is pleasing.  Secondly, the provenance of the artwork is important. There are many people with serious talent, but they are not consistent. The FBA members are elected to the societies by recognition of both their talent, and commitment to creating quality works of art. A buyer is not just acquiring a piece of art but investing in an artist’s future. The Mall Galleries is always a pleasurable and inspiring place to visit.

Interview with Ben Johnson, Winner of The Threadneedle Prize Peoples' Choice Award


Hi Ben. How do you create your incredible works?

I went to art school aged 15 and have basically been in my studio ever since (over 50 years).  I am always trying to find new subjects, exploring  and questioning my process, trying to find  the most appropriate method to convey my enthusiasms.

I have increasingly pursued more detail and this has lead to intricate stencil making.  For example, in The Room of the Revolutionary there are two chairs.  Each chair is made up of 40 stencils and each stencil takes 2 days to prepare.  This means 160 days of preparation before the painting starts and the chairs are just a small area of the canvas.  In this sort of situation I will work with assistants to share the workload.  They are usually recent art graduates or students.  I see this as a mutually beneficial collaboration and I feel privileged to be able to work with people just beginning their lives in the world of art.  I put in the hours- 9 – 8, 5 days a week- and then visit museums and galleries at the weekend.

You’ve exhibited all over the world- from the Pompidou to the Dubai Art Fair, to the New Orleans Museum of Art. Have you noticed any differences in attitudes towards art?

Each country has its own historical culture that will tend to influence its acceptance of ideas but what I have witnessed is the growth of interest in museum going.  They are not seen as ivory towers but as places for social exchange open to all.  This is all very positive but the gallery scene does bewilder me (I am still quite naive).  Art has increasingly become merged with commodity; signatures are traded and made objects of investment at certain levels.

The Mall Galleries champions figurative art by living British artists. What are the most exciting developments you’ve seen in British figurative art during your extensive career?

When I was at the RCA painting school, abstraction dominated. There was a sense of hierarchy and exclusivity as some painters only respected and looked at others that were commited to their particular area of abstraction.  Additionally, painters did not talk to printmakers, printmakers did not talk to illustrators, illustrators did not talk to industrial designers etc…  This has all changed for the better.  Today there is much more collaboration and exchange of ideas.  

Also, an awareness of the social responsibility of the art community has developed.  The form and language of a painting is not the main concern, but the content is of greater importance and all forms of communication are legitimate.

What is your favourite type of commission or project?

Big, ambitious, challenging – a commision that forces me to look at and consider a new aspect of life outside the studio and then puts me back in the studio to explore my methods and materials.

My most important project was a commission from the city of Liverpool and the Walker Art Gallery – a cityscape that took 3 years to complete, with a full time team of 6, and the last five weeks completed in public, with an open studio in the gallery. Fifty-one thousand visitors came to watch.  I gave a talk every day – to school children, women’s groups,  asylum seekers, children with learning difficulties, architects and diverse groups; and for many of them it was the first time they had been in a museum.  They had not come to see art but to see how someone was presenting their city that they love so much. Many projects were started in schools and community groups as a result.

It was a very humbling experience. I still have many good friends from that time in the great city and the painting has now been seen by many millions visiting the Museum of Liverpool.

Do you have any tips for art purchasers, both big and small?

Only buy if you love the work and the work is the by-product of love.

Jenny Halstead PS on her 'Loose and Lively' Pastels


From an article / interview by Ken Gofton for the Pastel Society newsletter

Jenny Halstead of the Pastel Society spent Summer on an unusual project.

She was recording the eighteenth – possibly final – Silchester excavation. Part of the undergraduate Archaeology courses at University of Reading, the annual event is known for attracting many volunteers, also.

A book on the excavations, using Halstead’s work, is to follow. This year’s collaboration follows a hugely successful residency last year, at the University’s ‘Harris Garden’; on which she created both a book, and an exhibition, at the University’s ‘Museum of English Rural Life’.

Halstead was elected to membership of the Pastel Society in 2010 and serves as honorary secretary. Her early career was spent as a medical illustrator, requiring her to work quickly and accurately in operating theatres. About 14 years ago, she decided to return to her first love, fine art, and today she is known for loose and lively work.

“I went on a portrait course, and found myself working on a very large scale, with big, chunky oil pastels. I needed to paint by moving my whole body, not just working from the wrists. That was a very enjoyable change, reinforced by the pleasure of being able, for once, to use any colour I wanted. And when I moved to soft pastels, with an enormous colour range to choose from, everything opened up for me.”

People in every day settings are her favourite subject, and her time in medical illustration has cemented a deep knowledge of anatomy. Saying this, often she will depict a life-model, but invent a setting, using her imagination. Additionally, picking up abstract patterns in a landscape holds a particular fascination for her, to great visual effect.

She works on landscapes in the studio rather than on location, refering to sketchbooks for information. For example, it is clear that her recent travels to the US and Cuba have informed her latest work.

“Keeping a sketchbook is a wonderful discipline. The concentration required to record a scene, however briefly, means that the whole experience of being there on that day comes flooding back when the time comes to produce a painting.”