Stephen Bone (1904 - 1958)

The artist’s studio, circa 1938


SKU: 4825
Oil on panel  

Height – 27.9cm
Width – 35.6cm

1 in stock


The Artist’s Studio
Llewellyn, Sacha, and Paul Liss. Portrait of an Artist. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p.56.

This probably shows Stephen Bone’s studio at 43 Havestock Hill, to where he moved in 1938.

Bone’s panels were painted 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”.

The 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.

Stephen 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


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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)
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