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ARTIST

STEWART LEES

Stewart was born in Watford, Hertfordshire in 1954. From a young age, Stewart showed a profound skill in drawing. In his own words, he describes, ‘I think I was born with a pencil in my hand.’ At school he excelled in art and won a national drawing competition aged eleven. On leaving school Stewart studied at Richmond School of Art and Design, under the tutelage of the maverick painter Stan Smith. Upon leaving art school, Stewart pursued a successful career as a graphic designer and illustrator, establishing his own agency in 1985.

 

In the early nineties, with technology muscling in on all areas of design and illustration and replacing the use of traditional skills, Stewart took the decision to give almost all of it up and move his family to deepest, rural France to be a painter. Whilst illustration and graphic design commissions from England continued, he soon established a reputation locally as a landscape painter, with successful one man shows in Bordeaux, Bergerac and Perigueux. He was also in demand as a teacher, running three art groups with students of varying ages and abilities. Stewart returned to Norfolk in England where he wrote and illustrated two award winning children’s books, published both in the UK and the US, and devoted himself to developing as a painter, turning more and more towards still life painting.

 

Stewart has been exhibiting with Gladwell & Patterson, formerly W. H. Patterson, since 2010, and his work has captured international collectors, from China to America, with his delicately balanced and immaculately painted compositions. In 2017 Stewart returned to Le Midi in south-eastern France, where he now lives and works.

 

Stewart brings to the genre of still life his years of experience as an illustrator and painter of figures, portraits and landscapes. Stewart has taken a great deal of inspiration from studying the Dutch Stilleven artists of the seventeenth-century but also finds himself returning again and again to the works of Andrew Wyeth, whose interiors, landscapes, figures and still life paintings captured light, texture and, above all mood and atmosphere, almost entirely through the most obsessive and meticulous draughtsmanship. Stewart’s paintings invariably start with one object, be that a weathered and gnarled piece of wood or a ripe and juicy tomato, plucked from the local market stall that morning, and from there tones, textures and flavours will draw a composition into being.

 

Even the smallest still life compositions tell his story. Seeking to ‘turn the familiar into something extraordinary’, Stewart views the challenges of the genre of still life painting as being akin to those of portrait painting, combining a concern for surface detail with deeper understanding of the subject. ‘…just like the best portrait painters, I’m saying something much deeper about my subject. Far more than the monocular vision of a camera could ever hope to express.’ In every painting, Stewart strives to capture the essence and beauty of his model, be that a humble clove of garlic or a cracked and weathered clay pot.

“As I observe a still life grouping with ever deepening intensity, the objects, and the space they occupy, become a landscape with depth and atmosphere revealed through the play of light across forms, all firmly rooted within a plane. And by adhering to strict accuracy in drawing and modelling, and by my pursuit of meticulous fidelity to form, texture and colour, I come up against all the challenges of a portrait painter, concerned with surface but trying all the time to say something deeper about the subject before me, to turn the familiar into something extraordinary.” – Stewart Lees, 2013