Discover more about the exhibitions held at Mall Galleries through interviews with artists, photo essays, prize winners lists and video and audio content. Mall Galleries publish content from all Federation of British Artists Art Society Exhibitions.

'Art Expert in Residence' Estelle Lovatt FRSA on Pastels

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Artist and art critic Estelle Lovatt FRSA shares her thoughts on pastels, and the peculiar exercise of appreciating art.

My second day as Mall Galleries ‘Art Expert in Residence’ was at the Pastel Society Annual Exhibition 2019.  It was a great privilege to be there, talking to gallery visitors about all things art, and looking at the superb pastels, which were of a very high standard.

Visitors asked me questions, some in whispers, others boldly requesting art world information at decibels that enabled those nearby to listen in. Whatever questions popped into people's heads, they asked. Titbits of advice were required in answer to questions like how can I sell my work? How much should I sell it for? What framing is best? Are there rules about mounts? Should pastels be behind glass? What type of glass?

Someone asked me simply to talk about a pastel they admired from the exhibition, and we discussed how art doesn't demand to be understood to be appreciated. You don't need expertise to understand art, to do it, or to experience it. When I listen to birdsong I don't know its meaning, but I enjoy it very much.

Just as important as knowing what you like is knowing what you dislike. We talked about the subjective versus the objective in art. We talked about rejection, and how the Impressionists, Fauvists and Cubists were initially rejected and considered madmen, before becoming much-loved favourites.

The love of art and ideas, emotions, feelings and imagination is what it’s all about. It was inspiring to hear pastel enthusiasts talk about their love for the medium and their struggles with their art: 'how can we make whites whiter and at the same time have more colour?' 'Can our greens be as wide-ranging as Constable?'

We nattered about what sort of paper to use, whether to use fixative, and how fixative might darken as it seals the pigment (so use a good quality fixative). This led on to talks about becoming friends with staff at a good art shop. The famous pastel artist Edgar Degas made an appearance; we discussed how he might apply a layer of paint to his card, for the pastel to grip it another way, or apply pastel to tracing paper. I directed one visitor to the National Gallery across the road to examine the Degas there.

I talked about good mixing techniques, like hatching and crosshatching, to ensure colours stay light and unified. I also encouraged visitors not to worry too much about technique. My motto is 'if you can dust you can draw!' Drawing is all about moving your hand, wrist and arm, up and down and side to side.  And, hey, you’re making marks, and marks equal drawing.

So until we meet again, I’d like to thank everyone for their ideas and questions. Happy drawing! My next event in the gallery will be on 10 and 11 April from 12 noon to 1.30pm. This is during the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 207th Exhibition.

Estelle Lovatt FRSA

Image credit

Sheila Goodman PS, Avon Meadows

Emerging Artists in The Pastel Society Exhibition 2019


Of the 60 guest artists selected from the Call for Entries to exhibit work at The Pastel Society Annual Exhibition 2019, several are new faces at Mall Galleries, and some have never shown their work publicly in the UK or elsewhere before. Many of these first-time exhibitors have gone on to win prestigious prizes at the Exhibition, and here they share their experiences of submitting and exhibiting.

Andrea Santi, winner of the Alfred Teddy Smith & Zsuzsi Roboz Award

21-year-old Italian artist Andrea Santi won the £5,000 Alfred Teddy Smith & Zsuzsi Roboz Award for a pencil drawing of her mother in The Pastel Society Annual Exhibition 2019. It's Andrea's first exhibition at Mall Galleries, and we've devoted a whole article to her here

Mum by Andrea Santi: Graphite, 35 x 33 cm - £1,100

Sophie Amauger, winner of the Frank Herring & Sons Award

‘I’ve never submitted my pastel work to an exhibition in the UK before, but I felt ready to do it this year after winning a prize in America’ says Sophie Amauger. Regular Mall Galleries exhibitor Penelope Milner told Sophie about The Pastel Society Call for Entries, and the artist decided to enter her work. ‘As a member of an art society in France, I also met some of The Pastel Society members, David Brammeld RBA PS and Margaret Glass PS, when they visited us in France.

‘It has been a great experience to see my work hanging alongside member artists at The Pastel Society Annual Exhibition’ says Sophie. ‘I was astonished by the quality of the works on display, and the diversity of mediums and subject matters. Many of the artists have such a strong style that their work is instantly recognisable. Several of the exhibitors are very well-known in France. Halla Shafey, who won the Henri Roche Award for her work Red Sea, is featured in this month’s popular French Arts Magazine, Pratique Des Arts. It was great to meet her at The Pastel Society private view.’

The Plunge by Sophie Amauger: Pastel, 80 x 80 cm - £2,100

‘Exhibiting at Mall Galleries is like showing your work in a national museum; the quality of the space, the light, and the various rooms creates a special environment for displaying art. I feel very lucky to have been selected and even more so to receive a prize, because lots of talented artists compete for a spot on Mall Galleries’ walls.’

‘If I was to offer advice to other artists thinking about submitting to a Mall Galleries Call for Entries, I would say that having a nice technique is not enough; personality is required. Now that I’ve exhibited at The Pastel Society Annual Exhibition and won the Frank Herring & Sons Award, I feel inspired to devote more of my time and efforts to creating work and exhibiting. This has been a great step for my art career.’

Lynn Norton

‘This was my first attempt at entering an exhibition at Mall Galleries and I’m absolutely thrilled to have a painting accepted’ says Lynn Norton. ‘I was encouraged by an art tutor, herself a member of The Pastel Society, who thought my work was of a high enough standard to exhibit. I’m so delighted she persuaded me to enter as I wouldn’t have had the courage otherwise.’  

‘I discovered The Pastel Society a few years ago. Visiting Mall Galleries for their Annual Exhibitions helped me to discover how I could use pastels in an exciting way. Traditional ideas of safe pastel painting are long gone thanks to exhibitions like this one; there are so many techniques, styles, and innovative approaches to dry media on display. I love getting up close to the paintings to study the mark making the artists have used.’

Komorebi by Lynn Norton: Pastel & Acrylic, 62 x 62 cm - £500

‘Attending the private view and seeing my painting on display among such fabulous work was a surreal moment for me. My adult daughters came too, and it was a proud moment showing them the painting hanging in such a fantastic gallery, with such a prestigious art society.’

The Pastel Society Annual Exhibition 2019 is great. There’s something for every taste and budget, and an amazing range of sizes, so whether you’re looking for an enormous statement piece, or trying to fit great beauty into a small space, there’s something for you. It was fantastic to see a full spectrum of styles, with examples of everything from pure abstraction to photorealism on display. Some of the paintings were so realistic I had to scrutinise them closely just to believe they were created with pastels.’

‘It’s early days, but I’ve already had some great feedback from being in the exhibition. Some people didn’t know about Mall Galleries, and they’ve all loved the space. Others had assumed certain things about dry media, but were amazed at the work on display.’

‘I would encourage other artists to enter their work to Mall Galleries Call for Entries. It’s scary at first, but the online application process is very straightforward. Mall Galleries shares a list of trusted art couriers on their website, so that took care of the logistics. I found a lovely chap who transports artwork from Northern England, and it was plain sailing after that. Having done it once, I’d like to do it again, and I’d recommend others to do so too.’

Phil Irons

‘I really liked that The Pastel Society welcomes innovative work and pencil drawings, which is my medium’ says Phil Irons, ‘so my family encouraged me to enter their Call for Entries. I met several of the judges and members of the society, and they were all extremely friendly and encouraging as well.’

Old Fishing Shed, Dungeness by Phil Irons: Pencil, 31 x 47 cm - £1,000

‘It’s quite surreal to have my work on display in The Pastel Society Annual Exhibition because I’ve only been drawing for 18 months. I didn’t really expect my submission to be successful, so to see my drawing hang alongside such talented artists is very humbling. The standard of the works in the exhibition is really impressive, and the gallery space looks amazing.’

‘Since the exhibition opened, I’ve received encouraging and complimentary comments from other exhibitors and members, especially on social media. I would certainly encourage other artists to enter in the future.’

Eugenia Solomkina

‘This is the first exhibition of my artistic career’, says Eugenia Solomkina. ‘I submitted to The Pastel Society Call for Entries because I wanted to know whether my work is good enough for public display. I’m a student at LARA, and I still have a couple of years before I finish my training, so it was really flattering to know that my technical skill impressed The Pastel Society judges.’

Steve by Eugenia Solomkina: Charcoal, 92 x 51 cm - £1,200

‘I really appreciate how exhibitions at Mall Galleries provide opportunities for emerging artists to reach a wider audience, and to get their name out there. It’s fantastic to show my work alongside prominent members of The Pastel Society, in an exhibition where the level of skill on display is so high. I will definitely tell other artists to submit their work to future exhibitions.’

Tracey Gent

‘I decided to enter The Pastel Society Open Exhibition after meeting member artists Caroline Bays PS and Susan Relph PS at life drawing classes in Woking, who suggested I should submit my work’, says Tracey. ‘I've been submitting for a few years now, and this is the first year that my work has been accepted.’

‘I was drawn to The Pastel Society because of the lovely work on display in the Annual Exhibitions. This year, I’ve started signing up to the society’s workshops and events at Mall Galleries too.’

Stone and Shadow by Tracey Gent: Pastel & charcoal pencil, 33 x 28 cm - £350

‘It’s very flattering and a little intimidating to have my work on display alongside such talented artists. I feel like I still have a lot to learn. As a community, The Pastel Society has been very supportive and congratulatory. One member took me under her wing at the private view and introduced me to lots of the other exhibitors, which was great.’

‘I would encourage other artists to submit their work to Mall Galleries Call for Entries’ says Tracey, ‘with the advice that they shouldn’t be discouraged if they are rejected. It can be difficult to handle, but it’s also part of the process.’

Find out more about the artists and work in The Pastel Society Annual Exhibition 2019

Image credit

Old Fishing Shed, Dungeness by Phil Irons

The Pastel Society 2019: Interactive Map


The Pastel Society hold their Annual Exhibition at Mall Galleries from 5 to 16 February 2019.

Based on the titles of works, this map reveals 54 locations around the world where members of The Pastel Society and guest exhibitors have found inspiration, and the works of art they created there.

All these works and more will be on display at Mall Galleries from 5 to 16 February, with a private view on Tuesday 4 February from 2pm to 8pm.

Browse and Buy works from the exhibition


Help us improve this map:

While best efforts have been made to accurately plot locations, please let us know where improvements can be made. Email:

Picturing the World in Pastels


Pastel Society exhibitor Richard Rees PS travels the world as an architect, and documents the places he visits in vibrant pastels.

Clevedon Pier, Somerset by Richard Rees PS: Oil Pastel, 49 x 68 cm - £750

'Visiting a new city or seeing a piece of historic architecture inspires my artistic practice' says new Pastel Society member, Richard Rees. 'I take a sketch book and camera with me on my travels to record the most interesting sights, and use these records to form works of art in oil pastel. I'm drawn to distinctive patterns, colours, and shapes, so even though my works in this year’s Pastel Society exhibition depict locations as far flung as Somerset and Yemen, they are linked by this overarching focus.'

Canary Wharf at Night by Richard Rees PS: Oil Pastel, 39 x 33 cm - £300

'In my UK scenes, it was the patterns that spoke to me. I liked the floating grids of light at Canary Wharf and the mysterious river reflections. For Clevedon Pier, Somerset it was the curved and gridded structure of the supports for the pier, dark against the blue Bristol Channel behind. For  Falmouth Boats 2, I liked the dancing rhythm of the sails and their contrast with the sky, sea and land.'

Falmouth Boats 2 by Richard Rees PS: Oil Pastel, 50 x 65 cm - £800

'At Eguisheim, a medieval village in France’s Alsace wine region, I found traditional timber frame structures, overhanging roofs, and pastel colours which looked like they had come straight out of a fairytale.'

Street in Eguisheim, Alsace by Richard Rees PS: Oil Pastel, 60 x 48 cm - £750

'My fifth oil pastel in the Pastel Society Annual Exhibitoin 2019, which is open from 5 February to 16 February 2019, is of Shibam in Yemen. It is the only place I've depicted that I have not visited, and as the country is now caught in the grips of a tragic civil war, it is currently impossible to do so. This World Heritage Site City is unique in having hundreds of eleven storey mud towers, dating from the Middle Ages. I was captivated by photos of the patterns these created and added my own colour interpretation.'

Shibam, Yemen by Richard Rees PS: Oil Pastel, 52 x 65 cm - £650

'Although I am still travelling a lot, my next subject is a series inspired by the Thames Bridges in London. Each work will gradually reveal more of the building's structure, forms, and variations. I'm also working on depictions of a Pueblo settlement at Mesa Verde, and a multi-windowed façade in Berat, Albania.'

Discover the Pastel Society Annual Exhibition Online Now

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Shibam, Yemen by Richard Rees PS

Introducing Dachan


Dachan is a renowned Chinese contemporary artist who is also a poet, calligrapher and painter. The artist uses traditional Chinese watercolour and inkwork, and a variety of traditional scripts in his calligraphy to introduce ancient practices into the world of modern art.

The Art of a Spiritual Era Brightens All Living Things: The Art of Dachan World Tour Exhibition is a series of exhibitions showcasing the ink wash paintings and other works by this artist. It represents a global journey of spiritual culture, guided by the theory of unity through art. The tour began in 2016, and these works have so far been exhibited in the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Russia, Italy, Germany and India. Dachan’s work will be complemented by a video allowing visitors to experience the world of Buddhism through virtual reality technology, creating a truly immersive experience.

Dachan’s works are rich in content and highly individualistic. Their poetic, calligraphic and pictorial aspects are intimately integrated. By using traditional practices in a contemporary manner, Dachan assimilates the spirit of Chinese modern art with a Zen sensibility, using ink wash methods rooted in Chinese culture to portray the changelessness of life. It is hoped that the language and vitality of his works lead viewers to have a more positive and joyous outlook on life.

Find out more about the Exhibition

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Behind the Scenes: Leanne Rutter AROI's Travel Paintings


Leanne Rutter AROI shares the stories behind her paintings in the ROI Annual Exhibition 2018, and how the institute helped to kickstart her art career.

'My relationship with the ROI began in 2009 when I exhibited with the society for the first time. I was fresh out of university and fairly unsure of my place in the world. One year later, I received both the Phyllis Roberts Award and 3rd prize in the Winsor & Newton Young Artist Award at the ROI Annual Exhibition. That recognition and support has been so useful for my artistic progression, and I hope to become a member of the ROI soon.'

'My paintings in this year’s exhibition reflect my love of travel, from the deserts and vast lakes of Southern Africa, and the lush jungles of Mexico, to resplendent woodlands in California and beyond. Here are some of the stories behind the works.'

'Before I left for South Africa, a friend taught me how to tattoo. Possessing this skill has changed so much for me - the way I travel, the people I meet, and my whole relationship with art and process. I had been going through a period of disenchantment, but through tattooing my creativity rushed back. While painting could feel lonely, I was suddenly working with interesting people every day. Tattooing funded my travels, and my travels inspired my art, helping me to love painting in a new way.'

Needless, Malawi

Needless, Malawi by Leanne Rutter AROI: Oil, 40 x 40 cm - £2,200

Needless is a scene from the last night of my most recent trip to Malawi. Often referred to as ‘the warm heart of Africa’, I’ve made some of my dearest friends there. It’s a country of great beauty, where you find a strong sense of community and joy in life, in spite of the widespread poverty.

On the final night of the trip, I was working alongside a tailor. The tailor was making several garments and I was finishing a large tattoo of a baobab tree. Suddenly we were plunged into darkness as the power failed. You’d think this would be a disaster, but somehow the blackout made us both concentrate; blackouts are a regular feature of life in Malawi, and work must go on regardless.

Both the tattoo and the clothes turned out beautifully, and that night is emblazoned on my memory. The resulting painting shows ‘two people who earn their living with needles, practicing their craft in my tiny flat under improvised light sources’ says the recipient of the tattoo, Ashley Malpass, from the Malawi Peace Corps.

Poaching Patrol, Malawi

Poaching Patrol, Malawi by Leanne Rutte AROI: Oil, 45 x 55 cm - £2,300

Poaching Patrol features Reto, a Swiss man I met who wanted a sleeve tattoo depicting creatures that creep in the Malawian night. Reto works to protect elephants and other animals in the vast forest of Thuma from poachers and charcoal-burners.

Without the support of teams such as Reto’s, there would soon be no wildlife left in this region. It’s not just elephants that are in danger, antelope and warthogs are targets for poachers as well. But elephants have so much emotional intelligence that they visibly grieve for fallen family members in an incredibly distressing way.

Reto’s job is hard and often lonely, with little respite. There will always be new snares, new poachers, and new horrors to behold after a long night of searching the through the dark trees. Working with local communities instead of against them is vital.

Desert Corax, California

Desert Corax, California by Leanne Rutter AROI: Oil, 15 x 40 cm - £2,000

I fell in love in San Francisco, and we travelled to the desert together. I recall the sunset as the saturation seemed to seep out of the landscape into the glowing skies overhead. A single hare. The imperious sharp silhouettes of Joshua Trees. Clambering up vast boulders. I felt so utterly present and in awe of the spell-binding stillness and silence. We made art and gazed at the skies.

See more works from the Exhibition

ROI 2018: Interactive Map

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The Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition 2018 brings together works inspired by locations all over the world, from Las Vegas and Venice to Doncaster and St Tropez. Mall Galleries Digital Manager Liam Kilby plotted these locations for us on this brilliant interactive map. Can you find an exhibition artwork inspired by a place near you?

Based on the titles of works, this map reveals 85 locations around the world where members of the ROI and guest exhibitors have found inspiration, and the paintings they created there. All these works and more will be on display at Mall Galleries from 28 November to 9 December 2018. 

Help us improve this map

While our best efforts have been made to accurately plot locations, please let us know where improvements can be made. Email suggestions to

Discover the ROI Exhibition 2018

Making a Meal of It


The Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition 2018 reveals a common interest among contemporary oil painters in portraying mealtime scenes. As cultural shifts lead people away from regular sit-down meals with family, it’s fascinating to see how these trends are reflected in our exhibition artworks. Several exhibitors portray the anonymity of the worker’s lunch break. Others focus on the intimacy and scope for humour within the age-old ritual of family feasting.

Mall Galleries' Digital Content Creator Beatrice Bowles-Bray went behind the scenes to find out more about the paintings from the artists.

Andrew Farmer is part of a group of regular FBA exhibitors called The Northern Boys, who go on painting trips together. They had planned to paint in London for a few days, and while Andrew was waiting for the other artists to arrive, he painted Lunch at St Pancras. ‘I spotted a solitary figure eating lunch on the concrete benches outside the station and felt that sudden urge to get painting. From my time studying in London I could see myself in the figure - that need to get away by myself for some quiet time.’

Lunch at St Pancras by Andrew Farmer: Oil, 40 x 50 cm - £450

‘The painting evolved rapidly; more figures were added as they came and went through the station. I wanted to convey the feeling of isolation I feel when I'm in the city, as well as a sense of being happy in one’s own company, but the painting could be read in a multitude of ways. I'm always conscious of leaving enough to the imagination that viewers can project themselves into the composition.’

Robin Mackervoy ROI is also a member of the Wapping Group of Artists, who paint scenes of London and its river. ‘There are small pockets of calm and rest in London’, Robin says, ‘green spaces where office workers relax with friends or reflect away from the bustle. Aside from Spitalfields, my favourite spots for observing this are Southwark and St Pauls cathedrals.’

Lunchtime, Spitalfields by Robin Mackervoy ROI: Oil, 40 x 35 cm - £600

‘The juxtaposition of tall architecture with the natural shapes of tree and grass, and warm colours against cool colours, together with varieties of light and shade, provided the setting. The eating figures adds a story within a story, and they stand out for their smallness in the grand scale of the scene.’ 

In contrast to these scenes of diners dwarfed by the magnitude of their built environment, other works of art in the ROI Annual Exhibition 2018 look back to the tradition of families eating together.

Fish Supper by Susan Bower RBA ROI: Oil, 43 x 49 cm - £2,200

‘I frequently paint people eating and drinking, often with my pets looking on’, says Susan Bower RBA ROI. ‘I have four children and six grandchildren and seem to spend a lot of my time cooking for them all!’ Fish Supper reflects Susan’s love of seafood. ‘Living in Yorkshire near to the east coast we have access to wonderful fish and have had countless fish suppers over the years’, she says.

Susan’s mealtime scenes are often inflected with humour. Going Vegan comically touches upon the tricky topic of special dietary requirements. ‘My daughter is a staunch vegetarian but my husband is a dedicated carnivore’, she says, which no doubt makes life around the dinner table complicated. ‘I’m just relieved Georgie didn’t go Vegan’, she adds. Susan’s minimalist composition allows the viewer to imagine the bemusement on the faces of the waiter and diners, the empty table an indication of their struggle to find vegan options on the menu.

Going Vegan by Susan Bower RBA ROI: Oil, 46 x 50 cm - £2,200

La Colazione, Tuscany shows a family at breakfast, with a view of the Tuscan landscape in the background. ‘Early mornings in Tuscany have a gentle light and warmth that has created a special setting for this composition’, says Pier Luigi Baffoni Hon Sen ROI. ‘I find the subject of people eating together inspiring because of the atmosphere of pleasure. Such scenes also provide great variety for the artist - a combination of figure, still life, and even landscape painting!’

La Colazione, Tuscany by Pier Luigi Baffoni Hon Sen ROI: Oil, 66 x 91 cm - £3,500

Although these paintings present the act of eating in different styles and from different perspectives, each recognises that, at a basic level, eating is an opportunity to engage with the wider world. That could mean sharing our space with strangers or demonstrating the world’s largeness by our comparative smallness. It could also signify the special shrinkage that occurs when a family dining room comes to feel like the whole world.

Discover the exhibition online now to see how other artists have touched on the theme of food and more. The ROI Annual Exhibition is open at Mall Galleries from 28 November to 9 December 2018. To purchase a work of art contact or call 020 7930 6844.

Browse the Exhibition Catalogue


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Susan Bower RBA ROI

Behind the Scenes: From Farm to Frame


For the Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition 2018, the society asked artists to consider the theme of ‘Community Spirit’. Many of the selected works explore this concept’s resonance for individual artists, and it’s fascinating to note how many exhibitors responded to the idea of community through food - from food production and farming to the social interaction of meals shared.

Mall Galleries' Digital Content Creator, Beatrice Bowles-Bray, got in touch with the artists to find out why they chose to focus on food and farming.

Kitchen Table Still Life by Lachlan Goudie ROI: Oil, 135 x 112 cm - £7,500

‘My studio is on a small dairy farm, so I’m surrounded by food production and farming activities’ says artist Nigel Fletcher. ‘My window looks out onto the farmyard and the cows in the barn opposite. I have all the smells and sounds of the farm with me while I'm painting - I love it!’

The Old Bee Hives by Nigel Fletcher: Oil, 50 x 30 cm - £1,200

‘I painted The Old Bee Hives whilst exploring a neighbouring farm. I’d been trying and failing to find a suitable subject to paint, and was about to give up when I spotted this scene out of the corner of my eye. I set up my easel with all the usual excitement, but as it was harvest time I kept having to move out of the way of a tractor driving past to bring grain from the field to the barn.’ 

Community Spirit Allotments by Roger Dellar PS RI ROI: Oil, 56 x 56 cm - £1,200

Roger Dellar PS RI ROI’s painting Community Spirit Allotments is similarly inspired by the harvest and fresh produce. ‘People working together for the common good; it’s a scene that’s close to my heart’ he says. ‘It’s good for people to pull together, get to know each other, and produce fresh food. That element of physical exercise is missing in many people’s lifestyles.’

The Red Colander by Lachlan Goudie ROI: Oil, 59 x 59 cm - £1,950

Exhibitor Linda Alexander ROI’s focus on fruit is purely aesthetic; ‘I love the natural world with its extraordinary shapes, textures and colours’, she says. ‘I try to illuminate these features with sunlight; sunlight brings warmth to the subject as well as blue tones from the sky and often extraordinary lighting effects. Green Apples illustrates all of these points.’

Green Apples by Linda Alexander ROI: Oil, 52 x 52 cm - £1,750

‘I was drawn to the apples as a subject because the leaves were a beautiful shape, encircling the fruit. It gave the painting a lovely rhythm. I liked the textures in the subject; the smooth apples, the gnarled stem, and the veined twisted leaves. And then there's the sunlight on the whole thing which gives it all energy and heat.’

Poplars Farm Workshop by David Curtis VPRSMA ROI: Oil, 53 x 53 cm - £2,350

Fleur Robertson shares Linda’s appreciation for the aesthetic of fresh fruit. ‘I feel that pears have personality, perhaps because of their torso-like shape’ she says. ‘Maybe that’s why they’ve drawn not just my eye, but those of many artists in the past – they even take centre stage in Caravaggio's revolutionary Still Life with Fruit on a Stone Ledge, considered to be the first still life painting in western art.’

Candlelit Pears by Fleur Robertson: Oil, 24 x 24 cm - £300

Artist Colette Clegg and her husband moved out of London to a farm when their children were little. 'We wanted them to have a childhood like we had experienced, with space to run around, lots of animals, and growing food rather than depending on supermarkets. We have a thriving vegetable patch, growing everything from cucumbers and curly kale to beetroot, beans and pumpkins. I'm always on the lookout for interesting subjects to paint, and while it’s tempting to got to exotic places to paint, sometimes the best source of inspiration can be right under your nose. Our kitchen garden offers unlimited ideas.' 

Chioggia Beets by Colette Clegg: Oil, 35 x 35 cm - £595

'I never really liked beetroot when I was growing up, but when we started growing our own beetroot we discovered how delicious it is. Chioggia beets are our favourite; the leaves are a dramatic contrast of vivid green and purple, and digging them out is like prospecting for rubies. I harvest them early in the day so I have time to paint them. Many mealtimes have been delayed due to my creative endeavours. The squishy, juicy consistency of oil paint makes it the perfect medium for my vegetable portraits.'

Discover the exhibition catalogue online now to see how other artists have touched on the themes of food and community. The ROI Annual Exhibition is open at Mall Galleries from 28 November to 9 December 2018. To purchase a work of art contact or call 020 7930 6844.

Browse the Exhibition Catalogue


Behind the Scenes: Stately Houses in the ROI Annual Exhibition 2018


‘Ever since I was a small boy I’ve been enchanted by stately homes’ says artist Chris Bennett ROI. ‘I saw them as storybook worlds surrounded by storybook gardens. Exploring these spaces with my parents, staring fascinatedly up at paintings of people dressed in wonderful costumes, is one of the reasons I became an artist.’

From the Orangery, Belton House by Chris Bennett ROI; Acrylic, 50 x 70 cm - £1,600

Chris’ fascination with stately homes continues to this day. In the Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition 2018 (28 November to 9 December 2018), the artist is exhibiting work inspired by Belton House, Ickworth House, and Kentwell Hall.

Belton House is a National Trust property in Lincolnshire recognised as a paragon of Carolean architecture, and the most complete example of a Tudor period English country house. Thousands of visitors explore the house and gardens each year, including Chris Bennett ROI, who was inspired by the majestic setting to paint these stunning works.

The Sundial, Belton House by Chris Bennett ROI: Oil, 50 x 70 cm - £1,600

‘When I first watched the television programme ‘Moondial’ I was captivated by the setting, Belton House; I always wanted to pay the place a visit. When I finally got there, it was love at first sight. The first thing I had to paint was the ‘moondial’ itself, seen against the long shadows of the late afternoon sun.’

Statue in the Orangery, Belton House by Chris Bennett ROI: Oil, 33 x 39 cm - £800

‘Stepping inside the orangery at Belton House was another instant beguilement’ says Chris, ‘this time for the spellbinding presence of a marble statue, gleaming brightly against the dark foliage. The sculpted figure seemed almost to be alive under the shards of light filtering down through the canopy of leaves onto the cool surface of her body, innocent among gentle explosions of green.’ 

Chris was also inspired by Ickworth House, a National Trust property in Suffolk known as one of England’s more unusual stately homes. The neoclassical design features a vast 105-foot-high central rotunda with an iconic portico, flanked by narrow wings in the Palladian fashion.

Dome of Ickworth House Behind Trees by Chris Bennett ROI: Oil, 33 x 39 cm - £800

‘Ickworth House is very local to me, and my wife and I often go for walks there’ says Chris. ‘Visitors stroll through this enchanted parkland and stumble upon the building itself, which hides somewhat among the trees.’ In his painting, Chris captures this sense of discovery. ‘It’s an extraordinarily happy place, populated by families, children on scooters, dog walkers, couples young and old, and hikers’ says the artist. 

Door at Kentwell Hall by Chris Bennett ROI: Oil, 33 x 39 cm - £800

The final port of call on Chris Bennett’s artistic tour of England’s stately houses was Kentwell Hall, which dates back to the Domesday Book of 1086. This stunning moated mansion has been used as a set for films, television, and now painting, as Chris put paint to canvas to show us the building’s beautiful entranceway. ‘The doorway, with its mullioned windows bathed in the morning sunshine, seemed like something from a dream’ says Chris.

Chris Bennett ROI isn’t the only artist exhibiting in the Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition 2018 to be inspired by stately houses. During a recent Spring bank holiday, David Curtis VPRSMA ROI drove his 1979 VW campervan in a Classic Car Run organised by his local village. The first stop on the route was Normanby Hall in Lincolnshire. Normanby Hall is a council-owned property and gardens, offering visitors free access all year round, including family activities and environmental education.

‘After a tour of the fabulous gardens, I came upon a series of Victorian greenhouses which led to the servants and gardeners’ quarters’ says David. ‘I felt the scene could be a memorable work if I could prevail with the complexity of the drawing, and the close tonal effects pervading the composition. I think the finished painting evokes a sense of past times; the gardeners’ room would have been a refuge from the busy outdoor working environment.’

The Gardeners' Room, Normanby Hall by David Curtis VPRSMA ROI: Oil, 54 x 70 cm - £3,250

From exquisite architecture and art, sweeping parklands and carefully cultivated gardens to the quieter, humbler spaces, and the communities past and present which maintain, support and enjoy them, stately houses offer us so much scope in the way of inspiration. Chris Bennett ROI and David Curtis VPRSMA ROI’s paintings in The Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition 2018 reminds us of this fact.

See Chris and David’s paintings on display in the ROI Annual Exhibition at Mall Galleries from 28 November to 9 December 2018. If you would like to purchase an artwork, you can do so by contacting or calling 020 7930 6844.

Browse the Exhibition Catalogue


Image credit

The Sundial, Belton House by Chris Bennett ROI