The colourist painter Philip Sutton is about to embark on the next phase of his career—as a gallerist—at the age of 92.
Sutton, a member of the Royal Academy for almost 50 years, has his work in the Tate and the UK's Government Art Collection. But with no real exhibition opportunities since February because of the coronavirus pandemic, he is taking matters into his own hands by opening the Philip Sutton Gallery in Bridport, Dorset. It will sell nothing but Philip Sutton paintings.
“It makes sense,” he tells The Art Newspaper. “With two exhibitions cancelled during lockdown and no prospect of them being revived, I’m going to be showing [my work] in my own space and online. I was encouraged when I put six paintings in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition this year and sold four in the first two days.”
With the help of his daughter Rebekah and granddaughter Bonita, Sutton’s gallery will open on 3 December in St. Michael’s Art and Craft Quarter, Bridport’s creative centre.
During national lockdown in England, Sutton has rarely been able to see even close family. “It’s been a bit like being in prison, but painting is a freeing experience,” he says. In the good weather he has been able to use his garden as an al fresco gallery, setting up his paintings for passers-by to enjoy, but he needed a proper exhibition space.
Despite failing eyesight—he is now blind in one eye—he has been almost as prolific as ever over the past eight months, with canvases increasingly clogging up his small, 18th-century cottage where he paints in the kitchen. The cottage is part of a sheltered care home at West Bay, near Bridport. “I need space and although because of Covid-19 I can’t paint on the beach now as I loved to do, there’s plenty for me to paint," Sutton says
“All I’ve got is my little garden now, but it’s full of birds so that’s what I’ve been painting in my latest work—it takes me back to my childhood because when I was eight or nine in the East End of London my mother used to get me to paint robins every Christmas. So I’ve sort of come full circle.”
• The first exhibition—Philip Sutton, RA: His 21st-Century Colours—focussing on his paintings from 2000 to the present, opens at the Philip Sutton Gallery, Bridport, on 3 December 3. To book a private viewing go to eventbrite.co.uk or philipsuttonra.com