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It is our great pleasure to introduce Gladwell & Patterson’s most recent exhibition of the work of Walter Dolphyn, featuring select paintings by his father and distinguished artist Willem Dolphyn.

As ever, the combined effect of Willem and Walter’s work delights, juxtaposing the former’s purely traditional oeuvre with the latter’s transporting world of humour. Classical technical virtuosity along with a shared aesthetic of luxuriant colour and attention to detail provide a rich link between father and son’s work, and denote their common artistic heritage passed from Willem’s father and Walter’s grandfather, Victor, the esteemed artist and former professor at the Antwerp Royal Academy of Arts.

In this most recent body of work Walter continues to focus on his favoured subjects: toys, figurines, gadgets and miniatures, all vividly rendered with exquisite painterly precision. As lighthearted as his subject matter might first appear, Walter’s technique remains faithfully classical. Working from his studio in France and taking advantage of the wonderful Northern European light, his process is to first make sketches, followed by an initial underpainting of diluted oil, before working the objects out in full one by one. Achieving such exacting levels of detail is so demanding that he can only work in 15-20 minute bursts on certain compositions, providing for a limited output of the highest standard. In his newest tableaux, The Shooting Practice – “Hm…Oh well… what about a job in the kitchen?” Walter is confronting new challenges. Whereby his works to date have focused on the figures and their interplay at the centre of each canvas, he has recently begun a process of detailing the background. In addition to his dedication to technical execution, the works included in the present exhibition showcase what is at the heart of Walter’s practice: the art of narrative. Jokingly self-styled as the Hieronymous Bosch of his age, above all Walter aims to tell stories. Inspired by the toys or figures themselves or by an everyday observation he then directs the protagonists, sometimes solitary, sometimes in various surreal combinations, often poised mid-action, or crowded into vitrines and onto shelves. A work like On Top of the World plays with notions of scale to sharpen our perception. Always guided by humour many works tell a brief pithy joke, such as “Darling, Are You Sure He’s Mine?”, while others are less straightforward. Empty! …Again!!, for example, is a compendium of tales untold, about which we are invited to speculate. This storytelling impulse again taps into a family legacy, this time from Walter’s great grandfather, a famed writer with texts now translated into 56 different languages. Each composition includes something relating to Walter’s own life. Those viewers looking closely, or now reading the artist’s own notes which he has so kindly contributed to this catalogue, will be rewarded with a personal angle to each work. Further elaborations to the narrative in his work include a new format inspired by comic books, in which a larger canvas of a main composition is matched with a smaller ‘what happened next’ canvas.

The still life works by Willem featured here are prime examples of his consummate skill and steadiness of style, and form beautiful complements to his son’s work. Their balanced compositions and harmonious interplay of light and dark never fail to impress. Whether a still life of finery and fruit, or of a toy figurine and cabinet of curiosities, each work in this exhibition lets us hold a detail of life under closer scrutiny, stopping to think and to appreciate in a different way.

Next year Gladwell & Patterson have the great honour of marking Willem’s 80th birthday and 30th anniversary of association with the gallery with a major dedicated exhibition. We look forward to this with anticipation and in the meantime invite you to enjoy viewing Willem and Walter’s work side by side once again.

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