Edward Stone's paintings are sometimes inspired by French subjects, at others Italian, but the greater part of his most recent work is painted at his long-standing home base in Dorset. These English works move away from his plein air roots towards still lifes and interiors.
Dorset subjects in Stone’s work have mostly been confined to a small stretch of countryside, lying to the west of the county not far from the village of Toller Porcorum, within walking distance of the rectory where his father, the celebrated wood engraver and painter Reynolds Stone lived for many years. It is an area of rolling meadowland, punctuated by thick ancient hedgerows and sporadic scrub and bog which has been farmed almost continuously since Neolithic times, much of this, remarkably in our age, carried on without recourse to modern agricultural practices.
With this tranquil region Stone is as intimate as was John Constable with the Stour Valley around Dedham and East Bergholt, or Henry David Thoreau with the woodlands and lakes near Concord, Massachusetts. In the light of such familiarity, engendered over more than a half century, it is perhaps not surprising that little of Stone’s landscape work conforms to traditional norms; here is not information but feeling, association, memory, filtered through green sanctuaries, close-focus studies of riverbanks, at once intense and relaxed, as if on the look-out for a hovering dragonfly, glimpses of downland framed by trees that are old, trusted friends, almost a Pook’s Hill vision of a quintessential Englishness suspended in time, some echo of ‘The old lost road through the woods’.
The still-lifes and interiors Stone constructs and then paints in his cottage are as simply and subtly organised as his plein air landscape work seems shaped by random, headlong, passionate encounters with surrounding woodland, streams and meadows, and would seem at first to occupy another world altogether. This is deceptive for with Stone all of these genres, nature study, landscape and still-life, are in their different ways ventures in self-portraiture. While the landscapes are born of immediate sensation – a mixing of memory, nostalgia and the pleasurable exercise of a not inconsiderable knowledge of natural history – the interiors have another focus. They continue a statement, ongoing in Stone’s still-lifes across the years, exploring the artist’s beliefs and debts incurred (as he perceives them) in pursuit of his chosen medium. Here he pays homage to the craft of a favourite painter. Typically, this finds expression on one level in a highly accomplished trompe l’oeil rendering of the master’s paintings reproduced in art books, but also implicitly in the mood and structure of the whole composition. Other pieces (such as Red Casserole), are painted with a boldness and density which brings to mind the Spanish school of still life.
In the paintings executed in France, in Picardy and the Poitou, Stone demonstrates his skill with the smaller-scale oil sketch, perhaps an echo of his fondness for Corot and Valenciennes: compositions with woodland and water (nature’s equivalent of his much cherished mirrors), full of energy and breeziness. In the Italian work, painted in Sicily in summer, there is stillness, languor, sensuality, allowing the viewer to glimpse another aspect of the artist’s sympathy for the Southern European tradition.
Edward Stone was born in Berkshire in 1940, the eldest son of the distinguished wood engraver and painter Reynolds Stone. He was educated at Eton and Hammersmith College of Art, where he studied mural design. After college he worked as an assistant to the muralist George Mitchell. Later Stone worked part time as a day care officer in the Health Service, supporting himself while beginning a long process of discovering painting.
In 1980 Stone was a contributor to the Gallery's theme exhibition, Women Washing and seven years later he participated in Now, Fair River..., an exhibition inspired by the River Thames and shown at Hay's Wharf, London. In 1989 his work was shown in Blue and White: Still life on a classic theme by contemporary painters and in 1995 he contributed to the Jazz exhibition. In 2000 he participated in The Art of Memory: Contemporary Painters in search of Marcel Proust, shown the following year at the National Theatre on the South Bank. Edward Stone has held one-man exhibitions with Francis Kyle Gallery in 1988, 1990, 1992, 1997, 2000, 2003 and 2007.
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