Art dealer John Robertson.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

1 How did you get your start?

While reading history of art as an external student of London University I had a stall on Portobello Road. I wasn’t making much until a picture collector threw me a lifeline and I held on through thick and thin. For many years my main interest was in 19th century English watercolours, but all pictures, both ancient and modern, are of endless fascination. It’s been such a privilege to have earned a living for 50 years doing something I still enjoy.

2 What is one great discovery you’ve made?

A large painting by Dame Laura Knight titled Early Morning at a Gypsy Camp. There was no mystery about who painted it, but it didn’t reveal its importance or secrets for several years. I was delighted when York City Art Gallery purchased it just before the pandemic. It went on display last summer when I had the pleasure of visiting it.


Early Morning at a Gypsy Camp by Dame Laura Knight.

3 What’s a ‘holy grail’ item in your area?

One can but dream but I’d love to stumble across an early work by Samuel Palmer when he was living at Shoreham, Kent. His grave is in St Mary’s cemetery, a few hundred yards from where I had my gallery in Reigate.

4 What is one thing you hope you’ll never sell?

A watercolour which hangs in our bedroom by William Henry Hunt. It’s an allegory on Youth and Age painted c.1835. I see it every morning and with each passing day it gains greater meaning.

5 What is one thing you couldn’t do without?

My wonderful, fantastic, long-suffering picture framers.


This oil on canvas, Fishing Vessels becalmed with a Man-o-War in the distance, was painted by Charles Martin Powell (1775-1824) and is offered by Robertson at the Mayfair Antiques and Fine Art Fair for £8500.

If you would like to be featured in 5 Questions, please contact