Thursday, 31 March 2016
This picture caught my eye in Tate Britain yesterday (I think they recently brought it out from storage). It's An Artist in His Studio by Alfred Stevens - not the hugely successful Belgian painter of elegant Victorian ladies, but the English sculptor best known for his extravagant Wellington monument in St Paul's Cathedral. An Artist in His Studio is dated around 1840, when the young Stevens was studying in Italy, but - apart from the costume - it could have been painted 50 years later (and by a French, or Frenchified, artist at that). There is nothing the least academic about this fresh and freely painted portrait - and nothing remotely suggestive of the Wellington monument. On the evidence of this early picture, it seems a pity that this Stevens didn't devote more of his energy to painting.