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a word on art

Studio Visit: Peter van Breda

We have been reminded over recent months about the beauty of British towns, cities and villages. Being at home and travelling locally has enabled all of us to seek out the lovely places we already know and to discover those which are new to us.

I always enjoy a trip to Lewes on the South Downs. It really is a fine county town and the High Street is a wonderful mixture of timbered houses, Georgian elegance and Victorian civic buildings. Along the High Street just behind the Pelham Arms pub is Peter’s garden studio.

Peter branched out of his attic into a self- built studio space, in February 2014. It gives him the room to paint large canvases and to be surrounded by the sketches, drawings and work which all contribute to the ideas and compositions which Peter puts together for his admiring collectors.

Peter was in full flow with his easel and paint brush when I visited. He showed me the work he was undertaking on a painting of Bath, using his collection of studies for reference.

Whilst staying in Bath he showed me the various sketches he had drawn of how it had just rained. All the wet reflections on the flagstone pavement created an atmospheric watery foreground. His pencil work in his notebooks reminds him once more of the atmosphere of the moment. As always with Peter, it’s all about the light.

In the painting he has captured the spectacular lights from a royal blue shop he was drawn to, mirroring the warm glow from the elegant chandeliers in the Pump Rooms opposite. I asked him about the characters in the painting and he told me about a musician;

The rain stopped, and an eye-wateringly brilliant violinist appeared in the square and played. Where would we be without our musicians right now?”

We have indeed all become much more aware of people busking as those involved in live music take to the streets.

The walls of his studio are lined with small panels and boards all painted with snap shots of corners of Venice, cafes in Italy and lights over London. I asked Peter about a London snow scene propped up against the wall. It was a time honoured view up along Fleet Street to the magnificent rising dome of St. Paul’s. He filled me in on his take of the view

“Fleet Street in the snow may seem a slightly unseasonal choice but I was looking through my studies and remembered the time I’d spent standing there (in the cold!) desperate to capture the snow in case it suddenly disappeared. I was looking down Fleet Street and liking the shapes of the clock and awnings on the left, and the iconic red buses and London cabs driving through – their lights reflecting in the snow. St Paul’s stood proud in the background with a snowy cap on the dome. A blanket of white has a way of eradicating some of the traces of modernity and acts as a reminder of how little the street has changed over time.”

^ Here are the paintings in progress^

A second painting of Bath caught my eye; again, light and reflections are a recurrent theme;

“When I arrived in Bath I headed straight for the Abbey. I’d stayed in Marshall Wade’s House some years ago where the magnificent Jacob’s Ladder, with angels climbing to heaven, was floodlit at night and I could see it clearly from the kitchen window. This time I wanted to capture the atmosphere of the square in front of the Abbey with the Roman Baths and Pump Rooms to the right of me. Standing in a quiet corner, under an archway with pigeons flocking all around, I was able to set up my easel and wait for the light to change at the end of the day. The East Window of the Abbey was literally flooded with shards of gold dancing on the glass as the September evening light hit the front of the building. That was what I’d been waiting for. An Australian opera singer filled the air with O Mio Babbino Caro (better known as Room with a View by my daughter) and I realised that not being able to go to Italy this year had helped me to re-discover the beauty of England.”


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