Silver was another material which appeared in still life paintings from an early point; like glass, it posed particular problems of representation, and like glass it was also luxurious, desirable, and – in a painting – could enhance the status of a patron through the successful depiction of items in his own collection. 17th century Dutch still life paintings often combine silver and glass (Willem Kalf, Still life with a chafing dish, pewter, gold, silver and a glass, Private collection, New York); but they rarely deal with quite such a mirrored surface as we see here. Even William Nicholson’s 1938 painting, Silver teapots, with its superficially similar concept, is not nearly so complex. This work takes the solution of the tricky silver problem to a level beyond that of the Dutch masters, to a point where the surface of the objects appears to melt and flux under the pressure of the variously reflected spaces which colonize their different facets. This is a painting which is intensely decorative and almost completely abstract, in that the objects it depicts have been separated from their inherent significance and rendered in terms of juxtaposed flat surfaces. It is a still life of faithfully-drawn items, and also a musical arrangement of tones and colours: a stunning intellectual and sensuous achievement.
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