Whilst outside, the artist can study and capture the effects of light and different times of day on a subject. Painting a picture in the open air requires rapid composition and brushwork, neither of which is feasible unless the artist has a great master of the fundamentals of drawing and painting. Rod Pearce and John Whittall both have the great skill of capturing the world that surrounds them en plein air in a most delightful way.
This exhibition also shows their great skills in painting interieurs. Whilst John Whittall is well-recognised for his exquisitely executed still lives, Rod Pearce is showing a wonderful series of life class paintings which capture the atmosphere of the studio, the models and the artists painting.
John Whittall whose new collection of work reflects his dedication and continuous striving for perfection in his depiction of exquisitely executed still lives – that are fresh and intense making you want to reach out and touch the subject matter.
It was thanks to the foresight and the critical eye of the headmaster at Fossdene Secondary School in 1963 that John Whittall was given the opportunity to attend Camberwell Art School once a week for life drawing classes. He was sixteen years old and this provided the experience and foundation for him to enter the school as a pre-diploma student two years later. He also attended The Royal Academy Schools under the teaching of Peter Greenham and Tony Eyton.
John’s works of interiors and life drawings reflect the joyous hours spent in life classes under the tutelage of Francis Hoyland, Dick Lee, and ultimately his biggest guide and mentor, Euan Uglow. The latter was constantly checking that John didn’t waver in sound observation and accuracy and instilled in him the energy and enthusiasm to drive him on.
John would say that this collection reflects a contented period of work where he has been under no pressure but to simply enjoy the process of keen observation and interpretation. Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (his major influence) once said “be guided by feeling alone. We are only simple mortals, subject to error; so listen to the advice of others, but follow what you understand and can unite in your own feeling. Be firm, be meek, but follow your own convictions. It is better to be nothing than an echo of other painters. Beauty in art is truth bathed in an impression received from nature.”
It was Sir Brinsley Ford, one of the 20th Century’s great collectors and connoisseurs, who saw John Whittall’s promise – and quietly brought him to the attention of other similar like-minded collectors. His work is many private collections in the UK and abroad as well as in The National Portrait Gallery, Westminster Abbey and the Walpole Society Collection.
As the art critic, Brian Sewell, has said of John’s work “ … they will never be the stuff of fervid controversy in incomprehensible art jargon; they are images with which to live in peace as they become old friends.”