Peonies seem a peculiarly 19th century flower (although they appear in flowerpieces by the 17th century Dutch masters); they were painted by Manet, Fantin-Latour, Tissot, Renoir, Bazille, Gauguin, and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. They blossom in these paintings like opulent courtesans in crinolines, yet here in this work by Stephen Rose they are defiantly fresh and contemporary, primrose bright and clean against their dark foliage and the gleaming glass vase, their decorative Japanese qualities emphasized against the white wrapping, pale peach wall and warm stone shelf ground. A beautifully-judged harmony of pale tones vibrates around the bouquet of spinach-green leaves, lifted by one intense note of crimson off-centre.
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