Stephen Bone (1904 - 1958)

Sweet Peas on a window sill, circa 1930

SKU: 5232


Oil on panel, stamped Lechertier Barbe London, 10 1/2 x 13 3/4 in. (26.5 x 35 cm.)


Height – 26.5cm
Width – 35cm


The Artist’s Studio

Bone’s panels were painted out of doors in just a few hours of intense
concentration and testify to his painterly skill and sure sense of
colour. They show his family and friends and also his knowledge and love
of landscapes and townscapes in the l930s and 40s so much of which has
now changed or disappeared. From Ireland to Sweden and from Scotland to
Spain he carried his wooden paintbox fitted out with paints, brushes and
a rack of 3 or 4 primed panels. His equipment also included a three
legged folding wooden stool with a leather seat, a broad brimmed felt
hat and, in winter; fingerless woollen mittens.

In the 20s and
30s his small oil panels were appreciated and, at first, sold well
enough to  encourage galleries to mount more one man shows. His View of
Santiago shown at the Ryman’s Galleries in |1927 reminded the Oxford
University reviewer of “an early Corot in the freshness and I delicacy
of its treatment”. At the Lefevre Gallery in 1932 the Morning Post
critic wrote appreciatively ; of his advances in observation and
craftsmanship and of his “developing sense of colour and the minor notes
of grey, green and the palest gold”. The Manchester Guardian said that
“Mr Bone is a singularly modest artist. On looking at his landscapes one
always feels that he experienced some rather rare and delicate emotion
which he is offering a little diffidently to the spectator”.

prices of the smaller pictures were seven guineas in the twenties,
rising to fourteen guineas at the end of the thirties and twenty one
guineas in his show at the Leicester Galleries at the end of 1946, where
Stephen sold 22 panels. Then the market changed, modern art was more
widely accepted and cheap colour images became available as colour
transparencies. Stephen continued to paint but few of his pictures sold,
he had to turn to broadcasting and journalism to earn a living.

Bone was never part of a movement or school of painting. In his graphic
works (bookplates, bookcovers and illustrations,) he was sometimes
tempted by the style revolutions of the 1930’s but his paintings were a
straightforward realistic view of the world supported by a keen sense of
colour, technical skill and a knowledgeable observation of light,
clouds, waves, buildings, geology and vegetation. He had a special
interest in the weather about which he later wrote about in the Collins
Britain in Pictures series. The paintings need to be considered
carefully to grasp how much they are of their time.

Bone was a
very tall man, in the early days he strode, up to 40 miles a day, to
reach his paintable locations or struggled with his kit to reach such
viewpoints as the top of Southwark Cathedral’s spiral stair; later he
was driven by his energetic and successful wife the mural painter Mary
Adshead and during the second world war he learned to ride an enormous
Raleigh bicycle. Later still he travelled by rail, sea and air in the
congenial company of intelligent and admiring friends who provided an
escape from the depressions he suffered as his paintings, in the post
war era, increasingly failed to sell.

Panel paintings by Stephen Bone can be seen in Tate, National Portrait Gallery, The Maritime Museum and The Imperial War Museum.

We are grateful to Sylvester Bone for the above catalogue notes and to 
Patricia Seligman

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Stephen Bone
1904 - 1958

Stephen Bone (13 November 1904 – 15 September 1958), was an English artist, writer, broadcaster and noted war artist. Bone achieved early success in book illustration using woodcuts before he turned to painting and art criticism.

Born in Chiswick, London and was the son of Sir Muirhead Bone and of Gertrude Helana Dodd, a writer. After leaving Bedales School he travelled widely in Europe with his father before enrolling at the Slade School of Fine Art in 1922. He became disillusioned with the Slade and left in 1924 to begin illustrating books, with woodcuts, for his mother and other writers. In 1925 Bone was awarded the Gold Medal for Wood Engraving at the International Exhibition in Paris. In 1926 he was the subject of a joint exhibition at the Goupil Gallery, alongside Rodney Joseph Burn, and in 1928 he painted a mural for the underground station at Piccadilly Circus.

In 1929 he married the artist Mary Adshead and they were to have two sons and a daughter. The couple travelled extensively across Britain and Europe which allowed Bone to paint outdoors in all weathers and develop a style of bright landscape painting that proved popular and sold well at a number of gallery exhibitions.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Stephen Bone enlisted as an officier in the Civil Defence Camouflage Establishment based in Leamington Spa. In June 1943 Bone was appointed by the War Artists’ Advisory Committee to be a full-time salaried artist to the Ministry of Information specialising in Admiralty subjects. The post had originally being held by Stephens father, Muirhead Bone, but following the death of Gavin Bone, Stephens brother, Muirhead decided not to continue with the commission. Stephen produced a large quantity of works showing naval craft and coastal installations around Great Britain. He recorded the 1944 Normandy landings, painted scenes in Caen and Courseulles after the invasion and went on to record the assault on Walcheren Island in the Netherlands. Towards the end of 1944 he travelled to Norway and painted the wreck of the Tirpitz.

After the War, Bone found his style of painting somewhat out of fashion and, although he continued to paint, he found it difficult to get his work exhibited. He became an art critic for the Manchester Guardian, wrote humorous pieces for the Glasgow Herald and did television and radio work for the BBC. With his wife, he wrote and illustrated children’s books. He died of cancer on 15 September 1958 at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London.


Stephen Bone (1904 - 1958)
Gavin in his study at St John’s, early 1920s
Stephen Bone (1904 - 1958)
Parliament Hill
Stephen Bone (1904 - 1958)
The Broad Walk, Regents Park
Stephen Bone (1904 - 1958)
Leg of Mutton Pond, Hampstead Heath
Stephen Bone (1904 - 1958)
Mary Adshead in Bed
Stephen Bone (1904 - 1958)
The Fair
Stephen Bone (1904 - 1958)
The fair
Stephen Bone (1904 - 1958)
Stephen Bone (1904 - 1958)
Land, Sea and Air – WW2
Stephen Bone (1904 - 1958)
Mary Adshead at Work in the Artist’s Garden at Haverstock Hill, London
Stephen Bone (1904 - 1958)
Spakenburg, Holland, Sept 1948
Stephen Bone (1904 - 1958)
Study for Gas Workers
Stephen Bone (1904 - 1958)
Mary Adshead Sketching
Stephen Bone (1904 - 1958)
Design for Piccadilly Circus underground station, 1929
Stephen Bone (1904 - 1958)
Sweet Peas on a window sill, circa 1930
Stephen Bone (1904 - 1958)
The artist’s studio, circa 1938