FORTHCOMING LONDON EXHIBITION 17th until 28th MAY AT THE OSBORNE STUDIO GALLERY ,FIFTY WATERCOLOUR PAINTINGS OF THE MIDDLE EAST
‘ARABIAN LIGHT’ AT THE OSBORNE STUDIO GALLERY
DAVID BELLAMY (born 1943) prodigious ‘plein air’ artist, author, guide, and teacher, has won international acclaim for his mastery of watercolour.
His emotions are stirred by mountains, the absolute silence of the Greenland wilderness, the peaks of Spitsbergen and Lofoten Islands, ‘mind- blowing’ scenery of the Egyptian White Desert, encounters with walrus, musk-ox, and polar bears in the snows of Svalbard, as ‘ profound and humbling’ as the elephant, lion, leopard, and rhinoceros of Africa.
In his search for subjects, he has ‘fallen over a crocodile in Kenya, sketched on dog sledges in Greenland, drawn ephemeral moonlight effects on a glacier in Greenland, taught spear-hugging Maasai warriors to sketch in Tanzania.’
Paintings are mainly in watercolour, developed from spontaneous, original sketches. He describes how they ‘often show signs of being done in the pouring rain, washes frozen into intricate patterns, mud-spattered, and even one or two blood-stained.’
He has paintings in the collections of mountaineers Sir Chris Bonington and Doug Scott, broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, writer Bill Bryson, and naturalist Chris Packham.
21 books published since 1983 record his experiences in the African jungle and Arctic wastes. He organises workshops and courses around the world to inspire leisure painters, trekking with groups of pupils in such demanding terrain as the Andes and Himalayas.
DAVID BELLAMY COMMENTS ON FAVOURITE PLACES IN THE MIDDLE EAST, EXPLORED OVER MANY YEARS OF TRAVEL.
Egyptians have an infectious sense of humour and kindness that you miss out on if you fail to engage with them. All this and the fabulous Islamic architecture, as well as the ancient treasures and sites of Pharaonic Egypt.
The fabulous ancient city of Petra has attracted many artists through the centhuries. The intricacy of facades hacked out of sandstone cliffs defies credibility, yet holds the artist in thrall.
Oman has the most stupendous mountain environment. While I sketched fiery sunsets on Jebel Akhdar the muezzin called the faithful to prayer. These were intensely moving moments set against the dramatic rock architecture and savage beauty of the gorges
The beauty of Baalbek lies in the manner in which the whole place is littered with stone artefacts, intricate capitals, and gems of history lying around as though casually tossed about by some mythical giant.
Subjects for ‘ARABIAN LIGHT’’ include mountain and desert scenery, city life with its souks, musicians, card players, and belly dancers, and the ancient archaeological sites, captivating generations of travellers.
He was born in a small village in Wales, where he attended the local grammar school and became an avid reader, who would tear out endpapers of books for his drawing at a time of shortages in post-war Britain.
He loved drawing from his earliest childhood Highlight of the year was the village eisteddfod (arts festival) where he won ‘first prizes for drawing and painting every time.’ He names JMW Turner as ‘undoubtedly his greatest influence.’
He first visited the Middle East in 1963. RAF service in Aden kindled an interest in the Arab world. ‘It was not until my love for the mountains provided opportunities to capture wild scenery in watercolour that I realised which path I should follow. I found myself sketching all the year-round, in all sorts of weather conditions, and most inspired by the snow-clad mountains.’
‘Working on alfresco watercolour sketches was a marvellous way of getting to know the medium So I became self-taught, not just in watercolour, but pastels and oil painting, the first medium I had taken seriously.’
Since 1983 David has published twenty-one books on the subject of watercolour painting and his fascination with the wildest of wild places. His last book was ‘Arctic Light.’ As a teacher of art, he organises tours and workshops in the UK and America, leading groups of leisure painters into ‘demanding terrain’ such as the Andes and Himalayas.
Subjects of his 50 works .in the new ‘ARABIAN LIGHT’ show are ancient archaeological wonders, mountains and deserts, Cairo street life and its cafes, souks, card players, music makers, and belly dancers.
Extensive travels have brought Bellamy special knowledge and understanding of South Arabia and the Swahili coast, Jordan, Lebanon, Dubai, and Oman.
His work may recall the Orientalist painters of the 18th and 19th centuries, fascinated by a new taste for ‘wilderness’, drawn to the exotic allure of harem and Hammam. The atmosphere of languorous glamour attracted French great names such as Ingres and Delacroix.
British travel artist and immortal nonsense poet Edward Lear hated the studio, and in 1858 set out for the Holy Land.
‘I feel a great bond with him’ writes David Bellamy. ‘With his love of nature and his constant seeking of the truth, he forsook the great ancient sites to concentrate on more natural subjects such as the cedars of Lebanon or return once again to the mountains.’