Son's book catalogues Newbury artist Christopher Hall's Italian paintings
Many will be familiar with the paintings of Newbury artist Christopher Hall, may even be fortunate to own one or like me had the privilege of hanging his work in exhibitions.
He was a ‘painter of people and places’ with a unique style and while many love his scenes of Newbury, he was noted for his precise, colourful depictions of the town of Recanati, in the Marche region of Italy, which he visited regularly.
Christopher was prolific, his career spanning the decades between 1954 and 2016.
He also developed a reputation in local politics, representing the Liberals (now Liberal Democrats) on the former Newbury borough and district councils for many years and served as mayor of Newbury between 1967 and 1968, when he was just 36, becoming one of the youngest men to hold the post in the council’s 370-year history.
Christopher had a long association with Italy after he first visited in the early 1950s on the advice of his father. On his first trip, Chris met his wife Maria in Recanati and they married in 1957. (Again many who knew him will be familiar of the romantic tale and his lifelong devotion to Maria.) He returned many times over his lifetime, with Maria, the family and sometimes with friends, which resulted in many paintings of Italian landscapes, churches, beaches and dramatic hilltop towns.
Chris’ eldest son Anthony, who lives in Newbury, has just published a book of nearly 400 images of the Italian paintings, spanning from 1954 to 2014, two years before his death.
They illustrate his father’s biography, laid out catalogue-style, with personal observations and memories by Anthony, of family trips to Recanati region. He discusses the development of figures and the use of black outline as Chris matured as a painter, and also argues against the label of ‘naive’ sometimes attributed to his style.
It was some feat to gather together the 380-plus images, but Chris had entered each of the incredible 3,800 paintings he’d started over his lifetime in a ledger which gave Anthony a reference point... and Anthony was on a mission.
Aside from the books of drawings, portfolios, slides and photographs Chris left, and work in the family, he set about contacting anyone who might have images, searching the internet or organisations that had shown his work or auction houses that may have handled them for works the family no longer possessed. Where he couldn’t track the paintings down, he has where possible included drawings and preliminary sketches in the book. Some images taken off the web have reproduced less well, but serve to make the collection more comprehensive.
Anthony said: “Most of the work took about two years up to July 2019 when I’d hoped it would be ready for the retrospective we’d arranged in Recanati.”
That exhibition was in honour of the support of family and friends Chris had there, its legacy in his art and its importance to his and his family’s life. “However, our printing contact felt it needed a lot more work and after many small revisions I eventually arranged for it to be printed at Quadraphics in King’s Road, Newbury, a couple of months ago”.
In these less than optimistic times, it was a joy to discover or rediscover Chris’ happy paintings and to read something of the background to them.
Christopher Hall’s Italy - A comprehensively illustrated biography of his career and Paintings in Italy - 1954 to 2014 is being sold through Newbury museum.
It is also available direct from Anthony through email@example.com (ordinary postage is £2.70 in the UK but he will deliver personally within five miles of Newbury for no charge). Many of the images can also be seen on https://christopherhall.pictures