From Henri Rousseau to the Riviera dei Fiori

As I may have mentioned elsewhere I wrote down my first story at the age of twelve, at that time we were living in a large Tudor style house owned by the National Trust. Every room, corridor and staircase was hung with prints of the Masters, a diverse and eclectic collection from Da Vinci and the Dutch Masters to Valacroix ,  Brugal to Munch, Picasso and the Impressionists as well as emerging contemporary painters. This was due to the fact that my father had a subscription that entitled us to one large sized print a month for three years. It was thus that once a marine painter himself, he introduced us to the world of Art.

A Henri Rousseau Jungle print hung at the foot of my bed. Staring into it before lights out and in the gathering dusk of night may possibly have influenced me towards my natural fascination for the exotic. Unlike Rousseau, who famously never left Paris, English born, although like him self taught, I have spent large chunks of my life in Asia and the Pacific.

Even before the age of twelve I was always painting, drawing and colouring in fabulous landscapes that came from nowhere onto the pages of my dairy, scrawling over used envelopes I found lying around or to my teachers exasperation, in the margins of my work books.

In what I call my Impressionist Portraits I try, not to create a photographic likeness but to evoke the sentiments I see expressed in the gaze, women not classically beautiful , somewhat stylized but in whose face I catch a glimpse of the ‘secret person of the heart’. They are always surrounded by flowers. In my flower studies I strive to capture the sometimes hallucinogenic beauty of natures exotic blooms. Orchids for example that seem to have an other worldly life  somewhere between plant and mysterious being.

To quote Henri Rousseau, whose biography I recently discovered:

‘When I go into the glass houses and see the strange plants of exotic lands, it seems to me that I enter into a dream.’

In my case the glass house was at Kew and I like to remember that it was also at the instigation of my father at the age of four. Hoya’s dripping honey scents in the humid heat while leaves dazzling emerald towered above me Oh so very long ago! Yet I am still surrounded by the same strangeness here on the Riviera dei Fiori in Italy where I at present live.


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