Christine Bigmore is one of the most arresting still life artists in the land. Carol Cordrey feasts her eyes on the latest brilliant batch of works
Time to unwrap the special Christmas gift that I’ve been hiding away: the wonderful still life oil paintings of Christine Bigmore. A visual feast at any time of the year, yet infused with the traditional Christmas invitation to ‘eat, drink and be merry’, they resonate with those masterly works from the 17th century Golden Age of Dutch painting, as well as those by the great 18th century French painter, Chardin.
Seeing them up close, absorbing the astonishing realism, richness of tones and jewel-like reflections, made me shudder, physically, with excitement. Here, in a modest studio in a quiet Sutton street, was a really great artist.
Christine’s pictures are the epitome of small but perfectly formed (generally 20”x16”), created with such skill and meticulous attention to detail that each one takes weeks to execute. This, of course, means that only a handful are ever produced in any one year and Frost & Reed, the London gallery that represents Christine, invariably finds that her work sells within hours.
In these days of fast delivery of everything except quality, it is pure joy to see a relatively young, modern master like Christine taking time to create only the best. Yet the artist herself would be stunned by that description. Immersed in the pursuit of excellence, and conscious only of the limited flow of work resulting from it, Christine is blissfully unaware of how very, very good she is.
Encouraged in her art as a child by her family and school, she did a foundation course in Croydon before marriage and subsequent sons took over. Eventually, however, the urge to draw became so powerful that she enrolled at evening classes and began doing portraits of her children and those of her friends, plus the occasional landscape.
Courses followed at London’s Mall Galleries and the Royal College of Art – where the figure drawing tuition greatly inspired her – along with visits to the National Gallery, where she scrutinised the techniques, precision and spatial organization employed by acclaimed still life painters, such as Pieter and Willem Claesz and Chardin.
The French philosopher and art critic, Diderot, praised Chardin for his realistic and direct portrayals of ordinary items that resulted in serious, cerebral art, mesmerizing viewers and elevating the status of the objects.
That is also true of Christine, in such brilliant works as Baroque Violin and Stilton Lunch (above): a composition so sensuous that I can almost smell the aroma of that ripe Stilton, feel the garlic’s papery outer layer and the firmness of the starched napkin, and taste the sweet juices that ooze from biting into the tomatoes.
Let the merriment begin.
n Christine Bigmore is the star of Christmas Selection, Frost & Reed, from Nov 28 –
Dec 23. Visit: frostandreed.com
Tel: (020) 7839 4645
Art at a Glance:
The Lovers Lights Gallery
64 The Green, Twickenham
Newly converted bakehouse becomes an art gallery and lights up Twickenham Green with its innovative glass, jewellery, ceramics and sculptures. Bespoke service available too. Throughout December and beyond (each exhibition lasts approximately three months)
Tel: 07932 915970
The Gallery @ Handmade Frames 107 Stanley Road, Teddington
Life in Colour: vibrant paintings and limited edition prints by the hugely popular (and local) Liz Knutt. Perfect for presents!
Nov 26 – Dec 24
Tel: (020) 8943 2967
The Richmond Hill Gallery
26 Richmond Hill, Richmond
Winter Exhibition: celebrating 15 years of success, the gallery presents some of its best figurative and abstract artists.
Dec 1 – Jan 8
Tel: (020) 8940 5152
Dare to Joust
64 White Hart Lane, Barnes
Crosspoints: diverse styles by four contemporary Russian artists new to the UK but known internationally.
Until Jan 20
Tel: (020) 8876 9564
Orleans House Gallery
The Colour of Life: Twickenham Art Circle’s members focus on colour through diverse styles and media.
Until Jan 8 (Stables Gallery)
Tel: (020) 8831 6000
36 Barnes High Street, Barnes
Very accomplished French landscapes by Iain Vellacot alongside local scenes and still lifes by Andrew Holmes.
Until Dec 15
Tel: (020) 8878 0040