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Aladdins Cave

Russell-Cotes Museum

Finding myself at a loose end over half term I booked myself and the kids into a hotel in Bournemouth for a couple of days. I wouldn’t really recommend the hotel but my main reason for being there was to visit the Russell Cotes house and gallery. It is fabulous, like the home of some wonderfully flamboyant old uncle, perhaps an immensely wealthy Monty for Withnail, who has stepped out and let you in for a wander. The house is a work of art in its own right, the couple of lived there clearly had no budget restraint and went to town, every room a homage to decorative arts. 

Russell-Cotes House
The central Hall, Hugh contemplating the morrocan influenced fountain, now bereft of goldfish.

Charles Walter Simpson

I was not familiar with this artist, but this huge  – 8 foot square – canvas is extraordinary, it’s such an incredible study of light and pattern. Looking through his body of work, he clearly was drawn to abstract light patterns, and his painting of seagulls in late evening light ‘Silver Wings’ is stunning. His paintings seem remarkably contemporary for his time.

The punt gunner by Charkes Walter Simpson 1924

Lucy Kemp Welch

Not one of my favourite artists as her subjects tend to be quite twee, but still recognised as being one of the great equine artists of the 20th century.

The Gypsy Horse Drovers 1895

 Maud Earl

I know Maud from her prolific dog portraits that adorn many a country house, but this is the first big painting I had seen of hers. A stunning composition, very unusual having cropped the deer in the foreground.

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 Henry William Banks Davis 

Sheep are such unappealing subjects to paint being lumpen shaped, idiotic and with very little expression (sorry sheep!) but here Henry Davis has made them magnificently noble and dramatic.

Approaching Thunderstorm in Picardy 1869

Munnings

Ah, Munnings, I don’t see any in the flesh for a while and fall out of love with his work. He’s a one trick pony, endlessly repeating the same composition, the paintings seem crude and slapdash. Then you see one and remember why he is so justifiably famous and revered. They are extraordinary in real life; the size, the fury of the application of the paint and the insane use of colour, yet you stand back and it all falls into a harmonious painting with an exquisite handling of flesh. 
Dod Shaw on Patrick 1912
Brushwork up close. Mental.

And the rest

We ended up spending four hours there. they have a fabulous cafe and programmes for children. This is the sort of place art should be viewed with none of the sterility of modern museums. It’s when you works like the one below that you realise this is how they were designed to be displayed, not on a white wall under harsh spotlights, look at that wallpaper!!I urge you to go and have a look, their website is pretty basic with little info but it is worth the trip. I saw paintings by Farquharson, Lavery, Landseer, Henry Moore, and many more. Here’s a few more photos – but the BBC ‘Your Paintings’ collection has a comprehensive catalogue

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The worst kept secret…

For those that hadn’t already guessed, the painting I’ve been working on/impaling myself on my palette knife over, is for H.M. The Queen and is due to be presented at the Balmoral Garden Party in a couple of weeks. I will post an image of it after it’s presentation. Not that I think H.M. reads my blog, but if she does, I’d hate to spoil the suprise!
I’m really pleased with the final result, even though it took three gos to get there, with complete compositional rethinks each time. It’s just come back from Christina Leder, a fabulous Aladdins cave of gold frames, and is now en route to Scotland.

Works in progress
The Highland cattle painting is coming on slowly. It’s had a month on the floor, so was very dry, but a coat of retouch varnish and it’s now back on the easel; here’s an update after this weeks progress. I actually think I’ve lost a bit of the light in it, so that’s todays mission, then I’ll start on the background.

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