Continuing our focus on Art, Antiques and Sustainability, welcome to our Q&A with the exceptional 2Covet Dealer, Academy Fine Paintings.
Why did you start collecting fine art?
I’ve always been keen on collecting. When I was a boy it was beer mats and football cards and then vintage movie posters but I was always excited by paintings and eventually went on to study the history of art. I started collecting British and European 19th century oils and watercolours seriously about 10 years ago. I also collect Georgian (“brown”) furniture, so clearly, I am not a follower of fashion. In my opinion, if you are capable of recognising style you have no need to follow fashion.
How would you describe your collection?
The collection offered by Academy Fine Paintings focuses on the 100-year period between 1830 and 1930 which, in my opinion, produced an enormous number of the most wonderful pictures ever painted. Public appreciation of paintings of this period is now returning in a big way. The commercial success of abstract expressionism post 1950 damaged attitudes to art to the point where buying a run of Warhol lithographs became preferable to spending a similar sum on a Victorian painting. I believe all true art is inimitable and exceptional and therefore the very opposite of Warhol’s glorified mass-production. In the end why fill your home with commonplace prints when you can live with a unique work of art? Buying a painting should be about artistic appreciation not interior decoration.
Which style of art resonates with you most and why?
The Golden Age of British landscape painting between 1840 and 1890, and the French Belle Epoque between 1880 and 1914. Spectacular works of enormous academic skill that express great humanity and… look wonderful hung on the wall! There is no interior that cannot be improved or said to be truly finished without a fine painting. I have walked into some beautifully decorated rooms in my life but I have no doubt we could remove all of the furniture, fabrics, ornaments, fixtures and fittings and still keep the ‘wow factor’ by leaving just one painting on the wall.
Katherine & Petruchio by Charles Robert Leslie RA - Very Large 19th Century Shakespeare Oil Painting
Which is your most cherished work of art and why?
My personal favourites from our current collection are a very large group scene of Katherine and Petruchio from Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ by Charles Robert Leslie RA (1794-1859) and a much smaller, though really striking, profile portrait of a red-headed Jazz Age society girl by Harry Roseland (1867-1950). Also several works we are about to list; beautiful portraits by Jean-Francois Portaels, Virgilio Tojetti and Philip Calderon RA, and a very important Georgian crowd scene of London life by Richard Morton Paye (lost for over a century) that our conservator has been restoring to its full glory.
What is your most historically significant work of art?
I would have to say ‘St James‘ Day’ by Richard Morton Paye; probably the artist’s masterpiece and exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1788. Morton Paye was one of the most important painters of early English School alongside Wright, Reynolds, Greenhill and, of course, William Hogarth, whose work Morton Paye’s most resembles. In addition to its artistic merit it’s a really important historical record of life in London during the reign of King George III. It also comes with provenance dating back 200 years.
‘St James’ Day’ by Richard Morton Paye
Why would you encourage young people to invest in fine art rather than take a trip to their local generic homeware store?
Like flat-pack furniture and disposable fashion, the fundamentally ephemeral nature of contemporary ‘wall art’ makes the notion of building a collection of lasting quality to enrich your life and one day pass on to others a thing of the past. When I go I want to leave a legacy that reflects my time here, not a pile of junk for the skip.
What advice would you give to someone who is looking to fill their home with one-of-a-kind works of art?
To minimise mistakes any buyer has two choices; spend the next 10-20 years in study to build real expertise before buying anything, or find a Dealer who already has that and who is at very least as enthusiastic about what they are selling as you are.