Exhibition at Royal Surrey County Hospital

Brewery Dray

Brewery Dray in Guildford

When we were breaking down the exhibition on Friday morning, I sold this painting at the last minute. A young woman arrived breathless with the money and bought it. I was very pleased with this as it raised my score for the whole exhibition to four paintings sold. Not the best that I have ever done but not the worst either, and certainly quite respectable.

The other three were Strolling through Montmartre, Grand Canal Venice and Painshill Park

Paris and Venice are always popular, especially the well-known landmarks. I have almost lost count of how many of each that I have sold. Painshill Park is a new subject for me and I was heartened to sell this picture, as I now feel encouraged to paint some other views, of which there are many to choose from

Painshill is a local estate near Cobham in Surrey. It was laid out in the c18 by a man called Charles Hamilton. It was in the style of a natural landscape made popular at the time by garden architects like Capability Brown and Humphrey Repton. The views were sculpted, whole forests were planted, fake ruins were built and rivers were dammed to form lakes.

Hamilton worked a lot with American species of trees. It was interesting to note that you could import a “box” of plants from American nurserymen, suitably packed to withstand the rough and long sea voyage. Many did survive and are still flourishing in the park today.

Over the years, the place deteriorated and became overgrown. In the 1950s it was rediscovered and lovingly brought back to life. Every year there is a new project. Recently the old boat house was rebuilt using old photographs. The previous year one of the bridges was replaced using an old painting as a reference. I attach my painting

PainshilL Park, Surrey

This was an unwary group of people feeding the Canada Geese by the lake at Painshill. There are literally flocks of geese of different species, as well as ducks and swans. Always a lot of activity on the water. In the background is one of the strategically placed follies, which I think is the Gothic Chapel

I am starting to whet my own appetite for painting here again!


A different view of the lake with a different ruin which could make a good subject. Wants something in the foreground though. I have umpteen swan pictures from which to choose.

I have a commission to do and then I might tackle this one

Schlee Collection at Mottisfont Abbey


Mottisfont Abbey near Romsey in Hampshire, UK, owned by the National Trust

We were at Mottisfont yesterday to see the roses which are magnificent now. These are grown inside the old walled kitchen garden, which give them a superb backdrop against old brickwork. I took some pictures of specimens, especially blooms which are about to fall, hopefully to do a rose study again. I haven’t done one for a long time. Not just the roses though. We had come to see the art, in the form of the Schlee Collection which is on loan from Southampton Art Gallery until July 3rd

There is an exhibition of the Schlee Collection of drawings and sketches, on loan from Southampton Art Gallery, which lasts until July 3rd. A private collection which was bequeathed to Southampton Art gallery in 2013, which includes work or should I say squiggles, by David Hockney, Henry Moore and Franz Auerbach, plus many others. I would like to say that I was thrilled by them, but I wasn’t. Heavily worked and corrected jottings are not very impressive, even if by one of the great names in British art. I was more pleased to see a drawing by Barbara Hepworth of an operating theatre, placed next to her mentor Henry Moore’s work. The Barbara Hepworth was borrowed from the Derek Hill collection which is in permanent residence at Mottisfont.

Derek Hill was a portrait and landscape painter of note, who became sought-after during the 1960s. From the south of England he moved to the west coast of Ireland and founded the Tory Island School of painting, where he taught the fishermen to paint the wild Irish landscape. He was also an avid collector of modern art, including the post-Impressionists. He was a friend of Maud Russell the last owner of Mottisfont, and bequeathed a portion of his collection there. These are always worth seeing, including many of his own works, time and again.

For me, however, the gem is still the Whistler room. Here we see Rex Whistler’s unfinished murals. Unfinished because he was killed in Normandy in 1944. His trompe l’oeil paint pot and brush high up on the coving below the ceiling, still makes me feel that I want to get a ladder and climb up and get it. I believe several have in the past


Watts Chapel and Gallery, Compton

Watts Chapel,Compton

Watts Cemetery Chapel, Compton, Surrey designed by Mary Watts

The winter street scene of Guildford is going to take me some time. Not only do I have to use my imagination, which is not my strong point, I also have to do a fair bit of research and also calculation, which I have to take my time over.

This does give me an opportunity to post something local which we visited not that long ago, which is Watts Cemetery Chapel or sometimes known as the Watts Mortuary Chapel.This is in the village of Compton, near Guildford in Surrey. I painted the above after our visit. Financed by the famous Victorian painter, George Frederick Watts, through his paintings,he donated it to the village of Compton.The Watts Gallery is also nearby. Recently restored after years of dilapidation, it houses a wonderful collection of his paintings and sculpture. The chapel was designed by his wife Mary Watts who also oversaw the building

In 1895 Mary started giving evening classes to the villagers at their home Limnerslease, teaching them how to model the local clay, and producing decorative tiles in terra cotta. They modelled the symbolic and beautiful patterns that she had designed, which would be used in the interior decoration of the chapel. The chapel she designed is in the Arts and crafts Style, the nearest we get in England to Art Nouveau, although I maintain many of the interior details are really Art Nouveau

In England, we never really had an architect who epitomised Art Nouveau, as they did in Scotland with Rennie Mackintosh. I sometimes think Mary Watts was our Art Nouveau heroine.

Close by, her husband’s gallery. A very famous Victorian painter, G.F.Watts, known for allegorical and symbolic works. His paintings hang all over the world, yet many are here at Compton, and this gallery is so worth a visit.

If I were to be asked to pick a favourite painting, it would be that very famous one “Hope”. There are many to choose from, but this female allegorical figure, clutching a wooden lyre with only one string left, is very poignant.

There were two versions painted and when we were last there, the version from the Tate was on loan to Compton.

This painting has been an influence on many great names. On Picasso during his Blue Period for his hunched figure The Old Guitarist, is one example. Martin Luther King referenced it in his collection of sermons. Nelson Mandela allegedly had a copy on the wall of his cell in prison on Robben Island.

Later in the 1980s the painting was the subject of a lecture by one Dr.Frederick Sampson in Richmond, Virginia who described it as a study of contradictions. One Jeremiah Wright apparently attended the lecture and in his sermon in 1990 on Hope, coined the phrase “audacity of Hope”. Having attended the sermon, Barack Obama adopted the phrase later as the title for his 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote address, and more well-known to most of us, as the title of his second book.

I think the quote runs something like : to have one string left and to have the audacity to hope that you can still make music

How some things echo down the ages!800px-Assistants_and_George_Frederic_Watts_-_Hope_-_Google_Art_Project


Critics of the day called it Despair but obviously missed the point

H.G.Wells at the Lightbox

Neville Godden's Winning Artwork.JPG

Neville Godwin’s Winning Artwork

This year celebrates 150 years since the birth of Wells. He made Woking famous or infamous with his great work War of the Worlds, siting the landing of the Martians on nearby Horsell Common.

The Borough Council and its partners have launched the “Wells in Woking” cultural event programme

One of the first such events is an art exhibition in the Lightbox Gallery inspired by War of the Worlds, which runs now until May 1st. I went today, and there are some extremely imaginative entries by well-known local artists. The winning artwork I publish with this article. If you are local, this exhibition is worth seeing

He came to Woking in 1895, after the end of his first marriage, with student Amy Catherine Robbins, otherwise known as ‘Jane’. They married in the October of that year and lived happily at 141 Maybury Road, although the house was called Lynton at the time.

Wells lived in Woking for less than 18 months and yet it was his most productive time as an author. He worked at a prodigious rate to establish himself as a writer, which he did, as by the time he left, he was in his own words “fairly launched at last”

He wrote the Time Machine fairly soon after his arrival, his first science fiction work. He planned and wrote War of the Worlds, and sited the action in and around Woking, a most unlikely place for an extra-terrestrial invasion.

He followed up with the Invisible Man, completed the Island of Dr.Moreau, wrote and published both The Wonderful Visit and a pioneering cycling novel called The Wheels of Chance. He began writing When the Sleeper Wakes, another science fiction story, and started on Love and Lewisham. He worked in his own words at “a ghastly pace” in order to make his fortune

Reportedly, his literary earnings in 1896 were £1056, or £118,000 in today’s money

Later that summer, the couple moved to Worcester Park, and the story leaves Woking. He went on to international acclaim, meeting statesmen like both Presidents Roosevelt, Lenin and Stalin.

Later, there are talks at the Lightbox and two guided walks by historian Iain Wakeford, culminating in an International Conference in July at the H.G.Wells Conference and Events Centre in Woking

Exhibition at Tate Art Gallery: Art and Empire

Risaldar Jagat Singh and Risaldar Man Singh by Philip de Laszlo 1916

Risaldar Jagat Singh and Risaldar Man Singh painted by Philip de Laszlo in 1916

We went up to London earlier today, to see this exhibition at the Tate. It was a very big exhibition, drawn from collections from everywhere, which took us about two hours to get round.

There was early stuff, mostly to do with exploration and discovery. The maps reminded me of those in my classroom at primary school, which of course today would be very non-PC

Quite a lot of paintings, as one might expect, were to do with Imperial Heroics or what Victorians considered to be heroics. Not always ending with a British victory, like the battle of Isandlwana (spelling probably wrong) in Zululand, where 1400 infantrymen were slaughtered in a very short space of time. There was an amazing painting of that last stand by an artist named Fripp, who was attached to the newspaper The Graphic. He actually visited the site afterwards to get the atmosphere before embarking on this massive reconstruction. Other memorable pictures were the Death of Wolfe and the Death of General Gordon, all good heroic stuff. The British did quite a lot of bad things around the world, but hopefully left something behind that was worthwhile as well.

If I were to be asked to name the one painting that impressed me the most, I think I would have to choose the double portrait that I have shown. This is an amazingly expressive picture by Philip de Laszlo of two Indian Army officers, named above, painted in a single sitting. What is it about working at speed, that adds so much to a painting?  They were presented to George V at Buckingham Palace, before embarking for France and the Battle of the Somme, where who knows what became of them after that dreadful slaughter. We are told that one in six British soldiers came from the Indian Subcontinent! The contribution from Commonwealth countries was staggering.

Moslem Burial Ground

Moslem Military Burial Ground, Horsell Common

This links into a local monument of which we are justifiably proud, the burial ground pictured above, built by the War Office in 1917, for Moslem soldiers from the Indian Army who died in British hospitals from wounds received in France.

Various hospitals along the south coast housed Indian wounded from the Front. Some tragically did not survive. Sikhs and Hindus were cremated but Moslems were interred, and they were brought here for burial because of the proximity of the mosque at Woking, which is the earliest purpose built mosque in the country.

There were 28 graves in the cemetery which were moved in the 1960’s to the main War Graves Cemetery at nearby Brookwood. Sadly vandalism had been a problem. After a period of neglect, this burial ground was restored in 2014 as part of the centenary remembrance. A Garden of Remembrance has been laid out within the walls, and the names of the 28 soldiers who died are commemorated on a tablet.

Nothing jolly or frivolous to report from this exhibition, I am afraid, all rather heavy, moving stuff. On a lighter note, I am moving along with the Blue Mosque painting. The drawing has been transferred to watercolour paper and various bits masked out where appropriate.

John Constable Exhibition

Our local and comparatively new art gallery, the Lightbox in Woking is staging an exhibition entitled John Constable:Observing the Weather. No pictures from me, I am afraid so suggest the following link  thelightbox.org.uk. The exhibition opened yesterday and runs until May. We went today and will no doubt go again

Yet another triumph for the Lightbox, a provincial gallery with national recognition. Paintings, prints and watercolour sketches on loan from collections all round the country, tell us of Constable’s fascination with meteorology. Many sketches are from the years 1820-22 when he rented a house on Hampstead Heath to be near his studio in London, and these record cloud formations from different angles. They are really scientific observations which he drew from later when producing his oil paintings, such as Salisbury Cathedral from across the meadows which is the highlight of the show. This is one of nine giant oil sketches that he made which have become famous in their own right

Dismissed by the art world at the time, for not sticking to classical subjects painted in a studio, Constable stuck to painting en plein air, landscapes as he saw them uncontrived and true to nature. He was certainly an influence on the Barbizon School, with painters like Corot and Rousseau, and I always felt too, on the French Impressionists later on

Magnificent prints of Constable’s work by David Lucas are on display, such as The Drinking Boy and The Lock. This was about the time that printmaking moved away from the linear print to a representation that appeared like the painting, even down to brush strokes.

Obviously small by national standards but cleverly put together, and worth a visit, if you are able

Frank Auerbach at Tate Britain and the Third Curse Of Euston

Head of William Feaver 2003

Head of William Feaver 2003 by Frank Auerbach

We went to the Frank Auerbach exhibition at Tate Britain today, which is on until mid March. I am not at my best with modern painting, perhaps because I lack perception, or that third eye which may be needed to understand non-representational painting. But nevertheless I like to go to exhibitions like these if only to broaden my outlook

Auerbach is reputedly the nation’s greatest living painter. The exhibition has borrowed his paintings from across the continents, many from private collections, and is the first time they have been shown together. He paints in oils and acrylics, and puts the paint on very thickly. Some of his strokes are in fact furrows in the base paint, so thick is it. I found that I needed a very long view, about five or six metres before the image came together.

His work looks spontaneous, yet we are told that he would sand back 30, 50 or even 200 times before he achieved the image he wanted. Nightmare for portrait sitters who had to keep coming back

His studio is in Mornington Crescent in Camden, that area of London associated with other famous painters from Camden, like Walter Sickert and Spencer Gore. Plenty of paintings by Auerbach of this area of London, but I particularly like this misty one by Spencer Gore

Mornington Crescent by Spencer Gore

John Sutherland writing in the February issue of The Oldie Magazine informs us that this area is under threat from HS2, the proposed high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham. Half an hour will be clipped from the journey time, and in return we lose part of London’s art heritage.

As well as losing Mornington Crescent, the construction of HS2 will have dire consequences for Camden Lock and Camden Market, which is sought out by thousands of tourists each year, not only local but from overseas as well, so famous is it.

He describes this as the Third Curse of Euston. The first was the destruction of Euston in 1837, then the destruction of the Great Doric Arch, over which Betjeman and Pevsner wept in 1962 and now HS2, in return for which we lose an important chunk of London’s art and architectural heritage

It just doesn’t seem right, does it?