After walking into the Philip Mould Gallery, I was immediately impressed by the quality of the artworks hanging on the walls. The Van Dycks, Constable, and other paintings belong to the realm of museums in London. However, I was not here for the beauty of the gallery or the high quality art, although a spectacular bonus, I was here for a meeting with the expert on British Portrait Paintings, Philip Mould.
After introducing myself to the courteous intern at the front desk, I waited for the art dealer to conclude his prior meeting. Anyone who had carried out a preliminary google search on Philip Mould would also have recognized snatches of familiar words emanating from the conference room: ‘Fiona Bruce…. Fake or Fortune Series… Not for us this time but Russian art does interest me…’
My meeting with Philip Mould came about in a fortuitous manner when all the energies align properly and one feels as if the universe is smiling at one’s progress in life. After guiding a friend through the picturesque Wimbledon Village, I stumbled upon a poster advertising that the Antiques Roadshow was coming soon to Centre Court. How soon… well that very day in fact! So we hustled over with our newly acquired ‘antique’ (an unnecessary precaution as anyone could walk in) to find Philip Mould, whose books I had recently been reading. We spotted him right away from the ceramics line and I walked up to him as he was rehearsing his lines. He kindly agreed to grant me an informational interview for my website and a month later I found myself meeting him in his prestigious gallery on Dover Street.
We broke the ice by talking about our brief meeting at the Antiques Roadshow and how he had identified a previously unknown Lord Nelson portrait, which had been long forgotten within the confines of a private school. The portrait turned out to be quite a valuable work of art (you can learn more about this piece in December when the episode of the Antiques Roadshow is aired), and Philip Mould seemed very pleased to have been the one who brought it back into the light.
We began speaking about the importance of framing artworks and whilst we were looking at a particular piece in the gallery, a runner (a private dealer who functions as a broker) came in to show Philip a newly acquired painting.
The painting in question was of a beguiling woman seductively inking her quill in a low-cut blouse and throwing a menacing glance to the viewers. It was so interesting to watch Philip work; immediately he identified it as having too much on offer and so he suggested ‘perhaps it is a 19th Century painting trying to depict an 18th Century woman’. ‘Interesting but not the kind of work for us,’ he added politely.
After the runner left, we continued our discussion where I asked for his opinion on what particular qualities make a great artwork. He suggested that for Old Masters, the answer lies within the idea of illusion. When painters try to suggest a three-dimensional scene on a two-dimensional surface, they are testing out their cleverness in reducing an image to its basic shapes. Philip Mould stated that when an artist combines this technical brilliance with a universal understanding of the image or ‘poetry’ as he dubs it, that is when we find great art.
Perhaps it is indeed this beauty and understanding that makes people dedicate their lives to the art industry. Over the years, he has become incredibly successful in his career but I wanted to know more about what motivates him now to continue this journey of finding ‘sleepers’ or lost works of art. Answering this wasn’t easy for Philip to succinctly put into words. I could understand that there were particular feelings he gets when he finds a work of art and elevates the painting to its deserved status. It is communicating with the paintings and their past along the physical experience of the research and sleuthing that I think have become a fundamental part of his life. One gets the impression he will never stop hunting for lost works of art and his gallery will continue to be a great success. The next big event is the Frieze Art Fair where Philip is preparing a modern twist of ‘Shock of the New’ by unveiling his ‘Shock of the Old’. I’m looking forward to visiting Frieze and witnessing how contemporary sensibilities can be added to Old Masterpieces.
Taking a page from Philip’s book, the New Artist Fair will be revealing a new concept at our first show of 2012: The Mystery Corner. The Mystery Corner will be full of old oil paintings which we have discovered over the years that we will be selling on to art lovers and buyers infusing them with NEW life and providing them with a NEW place in history. We hope to see you all there!
New Artist Fair: 23-26 February 2012
Candid Art Galleries
3 Torrens St
London EC1V 1NQ