1 How did you get your start?
In my dad’s antiques shop in Plymouth. Paintings came later, largely because of a Fake or Fortune? episode with a Constable sketch! Since then, it has been a case of pestering art dealers for advice. The lower end of the antiques trade happens to be a good place to apply their lessons.
I think most us of know a good picture when we see it in a museum, but it’s less obvious how they will appear when they turn up in an unlikely place. The purpose of a gallery is to display things so they look exceptional. Take them out of that context and you quickly find that small details – poor lighting, conservation, framing, photography – combine to make good things look ordinary.
2 What is your area of focus?
I like forgotten artists, not necessarily for any high-minded reasons but because they are still affordable, and one need make fewer compromises with quality. These are generally isolated figures, rated by their contemporaries, but for various reasons have been forgotten since. My current show Forgotten Masters comprises 10-15 works which demonstrate the various reasons that talented artists fade into obscurity.
3 What is one great discovery you have made?
It was nice to find Charles Verlat’s contribution to an end-of-year competition at the Antwerp Royal Academy in 1844. Nice also to see the great teacher, best known for quarrelling with a young van Gogh, working as a 20-year-old student.
4 Who do you admire from the art and antiques world?
Will Elliott, an imaginative dealer, confident enough to buy on the strength of an image, as opposed to the name behind it. Andrew Sim for his ingenuity; Brian Allen for his generosity and knowledge.
5 What is something you would love to get your hands on?
A William Blake print could be easily missed and feels like an attainable ‘Holy Grail’!
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