Like the 17th century Dutch still life paintings which are this work’s forebears, it may be read in several ways. At one level it is a collection of objects, arranged in a satisfying group of diverse forms and textures, with a balanced overall harmony of colour; purely aesthetic and ornamental (although a challenge to paint). At another it is a celebration of luxury: the champagne and glasses, silver slider, silk-lined tie and Tiffany’s jewellery box, set on a silver table-top before a stuccoed wall, are as redolent of wealth as the Venetian glass, silver-gilt tazze, silk carpets and displays of exotic fruits and fish in paintings by Willem Kalf, Pieter Claesz, and Abraham Beyeren. It is also underpinned by an amorphous sense of story; as in Claesz’s Still life with peacock pie we wonder who has sat down to and then left such a sumptuous banquet, so with Rose’s painting we try to construct the occasion – is the tie waiting to be worn, or discarded? has the party happened, bequeathing the balloon? – then why is the champagne still to be drunk? Finally, there is the characteristic 17th century awareness of human frailty and evanescence in this display of wealth, set against the bubble-like transience of a balloon.
Stephen Rose was born in Rochford, Essex, in 1960. His career as an artist began when, aged 8, he saw a print of Caravaggio’s Conversion of St Paul. He was trained at the Medway College of Art (1979-80), Cheltenham College of Art (1980-83; BA Hons in Fine Art), the British School in Rome (1982), and the Royal Academy of Art (1983-86; Diploma in Fine Art). In 1992 he was elected Brother of the Art Workers Guild, Bloomsbury, London.
He has won various awards, including the British Institute Award, 1983; the Royal Academy Painting Prize, 1984; the Landseer Scholarship, 1985; the Richard Ford Travelling Scholarship, 1986 (when he studied at the Prado, Madrid); and the Royal Overseas League International Painting Competition Travelling Prize, 1987 (when he visited in northern India). He has exhibited at the ICA, the Mall Galleries, the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and the National Portrait Gallery (BP Portrait Competition); in 2001 he had his first one-man exhibition at Target, in Munich, Germany.
Publications: How to paint in oils, Winsor & Newton, 2008