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F&F and P&O

F&F and P&O

By Steven Hubbard


Original artwork


Oil on board

Image size: H: 41cm x W: 30cm

Framed size: H: 46cm x W: 35cm


Art meets literature... The second book-focused painting in our 2024 collection from this artist who, himself, has a prodigious library of books at his home.


W H Auden's anthology of author's quotations - A Certain World - in inimitable Faber & Faber livery, heads up a haphazard pile of novels and books, with a Maurice Collis title at the base, topped off by a P&O  silver jug. 


The era depicted in the painting is the 1970s (both identifiable authors died in 1973) and we have the feel of a study or sitting room and a relaxed Sunday afternoon or evening with one's favourite books and a beer or whisky to hand on the side table.


As usual, Steven plays with shadows and reflections to create atmosphere and add interest.


Says Steven: "I had always intended to use the fabulous F&F covers in some way. My father knew Maurice Collis (he was a writer and artist) and the Auden books he bought for love. The P&O jug was found in Stroud market and is a squashed oval shape to keep it upright, and avoid spillages, during rough weather at sea."


    Steven is a highly accomplished and inventive painter, though it is rare to see his paintings exhibited in recent years - and we're privileged to have these small studio pieces on show and sale this year.


    With his typical candour, here's his own account of how the small painted works materialise and why: "The small paintings are done for various reasons: for the pleasure of painting; to keep me occupied when printing editions and waiting for colours to dry; occasionally as a trial for a print I am considering, or as an extra work after I have done the print.


    "Sometimes paintings are merely a challenge or experiment to occupy and stimulate me between prints. I choose objects purely for their visual interest. Some I have had a long while, others I buy specifically for a project.  Most paintings are of things I already have.


    "I cannot understand why some objects feel right for imagery and others do not. I have for some years thought an alarm clock could work as an image but, despite a number of attempts, I have not been able to get the right balance in the trials I have made and the idea is no nearer being used. I have no specific era that I lean towards, nor do I choose objects from any specific time, I just like subjects that feel as though they have had a life. I imagine they must reflect me in some way."


    Widening our perspective, Steven's career has encompassed a variety of disciplines. Initially, he created watercolour still lives, before developing a successful portrait career.


    He was born in London in 1954, growing up in the capital, and has been painting and printing since he was a child, winning a Puffin Club prize for a lino print book cover design. In 1989 he was shortlisted as 'best painter under 35' by the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. He studied at Gloucestershire College of Art and Design and has taught Fine Art for over 30 years. 


    After being shortlisted for the National Portrait Gallery BP Award, and gaining an award from the Royal Society of Portrait Painters' annual exhibition, he completed many commissions, including a series of portraits for the eminent writer, NPG trustee and Cambridge don, Sir John Plumb (1911 - 2001). 


    With some of his portraits he began to create tabernacle frames, influenced by his love of 15th and 16th century Italian art, and these craft-based elements soon developed into a more personal and idiosyncratic aspect of his work. These new works - combining painting, carving, gilding and construction - led to Steven becoming a gallery artist at the Francis Kyle Gallery in Mayfair until its closure in 2014, with pieces going into private collections across the UK and Europe. 


    Always fascinated by technique, a long-standing interest in the ubiquitous prints of the Grosvenor School of printmakers, from the London of the 1930s, saw Steven begin to experiment with what has become his main focus of attention - the exciting possibilities of lino printing. Using multiple blocks, thin Japanese papers, extended inks and the flexibility of hand printing, these inventive lino prints use simple means to produce complex and varied surfaces and textures where, within an almost-uniform (or variable) edition, each print has very slight variations and subtleties which makes it unique. 


    His prints have been exhibited by the Royal Academy of Arts, the Society of Wood Engravers and the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers. His work is often used for illustrations and greetings cards and is held in public and private collections in both Europe and America. Public collections include The Royal Holloway, The National Extension College and The Museum in the Park, Stroud. 

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