Robert Dukes Paintings & Drawings

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  • robert dukes

  • robert dukespaintings and drawings

    11 November - 4 December 2015

    Monday - Friday 10 - 5.30Saturday 11 - 2

    Browse & Darby19 Cork Street London W1S 3LP

    Tel: 020 7734 7984 Fax: 020 7851 6650email:

  • Robert Dukes at 50

    Interviewed by Andrew Lambirth

    Landscape & Photography

    AL: Were looking at three different types of landscape. Can you tell me what they are?

    RD: This ones a landscape done in Normandy on a trip to Chateau Balleroy in 2008 with the Royal Drawing School, painted over three or four days looking across the stream at the back of the houses in Balleroy village (cat. no.2). The second one (cat. no.13) was done from a photograph. Its in Cvennes in southern France, looking across a lake at a block of houses. The last one is a transcription of a Balthus painting of the courtyard of the chateau where he lived in the 1950s (cat. no.31).

    AL: Is the photographic one done from a single photograph?

    RD: Yes. It was very hot weather and we went to this lake to swim almost every afternoon. The houses are a long way away, a quarter of a mile across the lake, and at a certain time of day the way the light hit them looked incredible. I thought it looked like something Id like to paint but I didnt have my paints with me. So I tried to draw it and made two or three very quick drawings, but there was nowhere near enough information in the drawings to make a painting from them. So I thought Id take photographs just in case, even though I never paint from photographs, and when I got back I made two paintings from the photograph, sitting with my easel in front of my computer. I was very surprised that I got anything out of it.

    AL: Isnt that what people say how can you have enough information in a photograph to make a painting?

    RD: Often the information in the photograph isnt the information you want. The colours look wrong. Photographs arent like your experience of looking at things. I think one reason I could do this was because I was a long way away. Anything nearby in a photograph is incredibly distorted by a single camera lens. If you imagine you were standing at the side of the lake looking at this view, whats in the painting would be a tiny part of your actual visual field.

    AL: Surely the painting was informed by the experience of being there and swimming in the lake. You probably wouldnt have been able to do it if someone had given you a photograph.

    RD: That is exactly it. It was memory and the excitement of looking at it, of actually being there. Trying to memorize that, even though the photograph was hugely important.

    AL: Did you use the drawings?

    RD: Barely, but the drawing was important to get an idea of what the painting would be about.

    AL: Tell me about the one you did from life, which curiously looks more abstract and a bit flatter.

    RD: To get these dynamic gable shapes that bind the picture together across the rectangle, I was just trying to mix the right colours to stand for the forms. There would be no point in trying to fill in the gaps, it would be impossible to make up a colour to do that. Its a painting and it has to run by its own rules.

  • AL: Lets talk about the Balthus. Why did you pick that painting?

    RD: Because its beautiful. Ive done lots of Balthus transcriptions in the last ten years but I wanted to do something a bit bigger and more ambitious. I just wanted to paint it like a stage set. And this is why in a nutshell I wanted to paint it and paint more landscapes. I paint still-lives normally and theyre lumps. Theyre usually one or two lumps, like one or two apples, in a bare space. Landscape is the opposite of that. This was like trying to paint a stage set or a big space that goes right to the edge of the canvas, rather than paint a single object in the middle of a space.

    In any painting, even if its a single object painting, the whole surface has to be animated and thats one of the reasons its hard to do single object paintings because they can just dominate the whole space and not work as a flat shape. But in a landscape the whole rectangle is animated right from the start. One reason for copying anybody, and especially someone as good as Balthus, is that you become more and more in awe of how good they are. Everything in the original links up its terrifying. Whats so amazing is that it seems like a game of analogy and rapport of forms and yet it seems very true to what it actually looks like.

    AL: Of the three different kinds of landscape, would you say that painting one kind was more satisfying than the others?

    RD: I would much rather paint from observation thats by far the most exciting. I like making transcriptions of things very much, but if I had to choose between the two, Id always be painting from observation. Painting from a photograph was a novelty but its not something Id want to do a lot of. Theres only one other painting in the show done from a photograph the rhinoceros.

    Still Life, Measuring and Electric Light

    AL: Is that one of the reasons youre drawn to still-life, because of the state of emergency: the fruit is going to rot or the langoustine to stink?

    RD: Not so much. Normally they last long enough to be painted, even though I take a long time. No, its more to do with the fact that you couldnt mistake an apple for a quince, and yet each one is unique. And that theyre beautiful things to look at. It seems like the colour goes right through them, they give off so much colour sense. A lemon especially.

    AL: Tell me about this idea of painting forms from the middle out.

    RD: There was a thing I picked up on even at Grimsby, which came from Camberwell, which was not to try and draw a contour or an outline and then fill it in, but try to paint across a form. I want my paintings to have more plastic force, to be more realized, to be more there. I paint from the middle out because I dont want to rely on an outline to define the form.

    AL: Are you measuring less nowadays than you would have done once?

    RD: Yes. Generally speaking, much less, but there are pictures when I still measure a lot. I liked what Patrick George said: he felt the measuring was becoming about measuring and not about what you were seeing. But I still use it, because I get stuck.

  • AL: And its a way out?

    RD: Hopefully. Or it might be a way of completely re-configuring the whole picture.

    AL: You always used to paint in electric light, and now youre working more in natural light. Why?

    RD: I painted in electric light from about 2000. I was working full-time in the National Gallery shop, so if I had a day off to paint I wanted eight or ten hours to work. And then I got used to it. People can be very odd about electric light and imply that its lesser in some way. Of course there is more variety in natural light, which is more beautiful, but I dont think people can even necessarily tell which of my pictures were done in natural or electric light. People think electric light pictures are going to be yellow!

    Anyway, recently, just for a change, Ive tried natural light. It felt very strange probably like painting in electric light feels to other painters. The colours looked really ugly on my palette, but now Ive been painting more in natural light than electric light for about a year, the colours look normal.

    AL: So one is not better than another?

    RD: Ideally you would have a beautiful big naturally lit north-facing studio somewhere quiet (not on a council estate, like mine), but you make do with what you have. The main thing is that you paint, and dont make excuses like Oh the lights gone.


    AL: So what is a typical day?

    RD: I get up about a quarter to eight and I draw from 9 oclock to just after 10 oclock, and if I dont draw for at least an hour before I paint, I cant do it. Then I start painting just after 10 and try to keep going till 6 oclock. I think its best to try and find a consistency. So it becomes natural this is what you do.

    AL: How important is drawing? Is it still central to what you do?

    RD: Its enormously important. If I dont draw a lot, the paintings dont have what Robert Motherwell called a precision of feeling.

    AL: I notice there are some paintings in your show of your dachshund.

    RD: Yes Miss Marple. Dachshunds are a very beautiful dog and she is the joy of our lives. Shes two now. Marple knows that when Im in the studio she wont get any attention, so she curls up on a cushion. Often she looks nicer than what Im painting, so I shift the easel around and paint her.

    AL: Who do you want to reach, as an ideal audience?

    RD: I dont think about a literal audience, and I dont think about whos going to like or not like this, but I would like to paint something that lasts.

    (A full-length version of this interview can be found on the Browse & Darby website.)

  • 13. Across the Lake, Cvennes, 2013

    18 x 22 inches

  • 5. Seven Quinces, 2011

    7 x 17 inches

  • 28. Bowl of Quinces, 2014

    12 x 12 inches

  • 17. After Veronese, Happy Union, 2013

    8 x 8 inches

  • 18. After Veronese, Scorn, 2014

    8 x 8 inches

  • 41. Apple, Knife, Plumbline, 2015

    6 x 6 inches

  • 40. Two Apples, 2015

    6 x 8 inches

  • 22. Marple on her Cushion I, 2014

    4 x 6 inches

  • 23. Marple on her Cushion II, 2014

    4 x 8 inches

  • 21. Beetle, 2014

    5 x 7 inches

  • 24. Cadmium Orange, 2014

    7 x 6 inches

  • 7. Cat Skull, 2012

    6 x 7 inches

  • 30. Rhinoceros, 2015

    4 x 8 inches

  • 15. Two Green Quinces, 2013

    6 x 9 inches

  • 31. After Balthus, A Courtyard, 201514 x 17 inches

  • 50. After Sickert, Ennui, 2012

    11 x 8 inches

  • 25. After Rembrandt, Susannah and the Elders, 2014

    11 x 13 inches

  • ROBERT DUKES 1965 Born Hull, Yorkshire1981-84 Grimsby School of Art1984-88 Slade School of Art1988 Awarded the Boise Travel Scholarship SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS 2005, 08, 11, 15 Browse & Darby, London SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS 1998, 99 Cheltenham Drawing competition2000-03, 13 The Discerning Eye2000-08, 11, 12, 14 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition2006 National Portrait Gallery Award2006, 13 Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize Exhibition2006 Critics Choice Exhibition, Abergavenny, Wales2011, 13, 15 Borchard Self-Portrait Competition

  • Catalogue

    Paintings oil on board

    1. Double Portrait, after Freud, Patricks Picture, 1988 8 x 9 inches

    2. Balleroy Village, 2008 17 x 23 inches

    3. Banana, 2009 6 x 7 inches

    4. Banana, 2011 8 x 11 inches

    5. Seven Quinces, 2011 7 x 17 inches

    6. Japonica Quinces, 2011 5 x 8 inches

    7. Cat Skull, 2012 6 x 7 inches

    8. Conker, 2012 8 x 9 inches

    9. Two Allsorts, 2012 3 x 5 inches

    10. Three Allsorts, 2013 3 x 5 inches

    11. After Freud, Portrait, 2013 5 x 4 inches

    12. Beetle, 2013 5 x 8 inches

    13. Across the Lake, Cvennes, 2013 18 x 22 inches

    14. After Mantegna, Two Rabbits, 2013 7 x 11 inches

    15. Two Green Quinces, 2013 6 x 9 inches

    16. Quince Branch, 2013 9 x 12 inches

    17. After Veronese, Happy Union, 2013 8 x 8 inches

    18. After Veronese, Scorn, 2014 8 x 8 inches

    19. After Braque, Still-life, 2014 5 x 8 inches

    20. Marple asleep, 2014 5 x 7 inches

    21. Beetle, 2014 5 x 7 inches

    22. Marple on her Cushion I, 2014 4 x 6 inches

    23. Marple on her Cushion II, 2014 4 x 8 inches

    24. Cadmium Orange, 2014 7 x 6 inches

    25. After Rembrandt, Susannah and the Elders, 2014 11 x 13 inches

    26. Conker I, 2014 6 x 6 inches

    27. Conker II, 2014 6 x 7 inches

    28. Bowl of Quinces, 2014 12 x 12 inches

    29. Two Yellow Quinces, 2014 7 x 9 inches

    30. Rhinoceros, 2015 4 x 8 inches

    31. After Balthus, A Courtyard, 2015 14 x 17 inches

    32. Sea Shells, 2015 3 x 6 inches

    33. After Roger Fry, Iris Tree, 2015 4 x 6 inches

    34. Apples on a Blue Jumper I, 2015 9 x 10 inches

    35. Apples on a Blue Jumper II, 2015 11 x 11 inches

    36. Granny Smith, 2015 7 x 9 inches

  • 37. Caravaggio, 2015 6 x 6 inches

    38. Lemon, 2015 5 x 6 inches

    39. After Delacroix, A Lion Hunt, 2015 30 x 39 inches

    40. Two Apples, 2015 6 x 8 inches

    41. Apple, Knife, Plumbline, 2015 6 x 6 inches

    42. Self-Portrait at Fifty, 2015 8 x 7 inches

    43. Allsorts, 2015 3 x 5 inches

    44. After Balthus, Thrse, 2015 8 x 6 inches

    45. Tamar Valley, effect of rain, 2015 6 x 7 inches

    Drawings pencil on paper (unless otherwise stated)

    46. After Tintoretto, Venetian Magistrate, 1988 5 x 4 inches

    47. A Henry Moore in Tate Britain, 2010 3 x 5 inches

    48. After Domenichino, Martyrdom of St. Andrew, 2011 4 x 6 inches

    49. After Uglow, Head of a Girl, 2011 pencil and gouache , 4 x 5 inches

    50. After Sickert, Ennui, 2012 11 x 8 inches

    51. Shaving Mirror, 2012 pencil and gouache, 11 x 8 inches

    52. Bathers, 2012 pencil and gouache, 6 x 8 inches

    53. After Julien de Palme, Self Portrait, 2013 11 x 8 inches

    54. Marple at Two Months, 2013 8 x 11 inches

    55. Marple as a Puppy, 2013 8 x 11 inches

    56. First drawing for Across the Lake, Cvennes, 2013 4 x 8 inches

    57. Heads after Degas, Ingres etc, 2013 8 x 11 inches

    58. After Hogarth, Jack Broughton, 2014 5 x 4 inches

    59. After Moroni, 2014 8 x 11 inches

    60. Will Stevens Church, 2014 9 x 6 inches

    61. Bethan at Sydney Close Studios, 2014 6 x 4 inches

    62. Marple Head Studies, 2014 8 x 11 inches

    63. Marple at Two Years Old, 2015 8 x 11 inches

    64. After Balthus, Heads, 2015 8 x 11 inches

    65. After Balthus, Nudes, 2015 8 x 11 inches

    66. After Balthus, Small Standing Nude, 2015 5 x 4 inches

    67. Euans Duck, 2015 5 x 4 inches

    68. After Vuillard, Annette, 2015 pencil and gouache, 11 x 8 inches

  • Browse & Darby19 Cork Street London W1S 3LP


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