Wed, 09 Sept 2020
Nick Schlee in his studio
UPPER Basildon painter Nick Schlee may be no stranger to exhibiting, with solo and group shows almost every year since the late 1980s, but what is remarkable is that he has just returned from an exhibition of his latest work – the result of two recent visits to Venice – in London’s prestigious St James’s gallery district… and next year he celebrates his 90th birthday.
Nick is a prolific artist and shows no signs of slowing down. His energy is reflected in his vibrant pastel sketches made at speed in the landscape and worked with vigorous brushstrokes into large scale oil paintings back in his village studio.
Together with his daughter Jemima Schlee, he visited Venice for what he describes as “one dazzling day” in March last year, “sketching in sparkling sunshine”. When he came to paint the sketches up back home in the studio, he was wasn’t satisfied with his interpretation of them, fearing his paintings weren’t capturing their spontaneity.
He returned to Venice in November to ‘fill in some gaps’ and to sketch St Mark’s Square and its environs – this time for a drizzling day-and-a-half just at the end of the floods, when sheets of water made unexpected reflections, and an entirely different atmosphere to his previous visit.
On the second morning “the sun was trying to break through the gloom and it lit the theatrical Venice set in a more cheerful haze”.
The resulting collection of 45 works Venice Observed, some 45 oil paintings and oil pastel drawings of the city in two moods, bright sunshine and the veiled autumn sunlight, was shown at Gallery Eight in London last month. For those not wanting to brave the trip to London in these covid times, Nick held a preview weekend in his Upper Basildon studio on August 15 and 16.
“Because of the coronavirus I was unable to have a full-blown private view in the London gallery,” said Nick. “So I invited my local previous buyers to come to my airy studio to see all the pictures in the show.
“It worked very well. People love to visit an artist’s studio and I sold nine of the oil pastel drawings and three of the larger oils.”
As for the London show: “Let’s be honest, there haven’t been many people dropping in to the London gallery, quite understandably, but I sold paintings with more enquiries, one from America and one from Canada that look very promising.”
For anyone wanting to view the pictures remaining after the exhibition, the studio was open again last weekend.
A virtual catalogue of the Venice pictures is available on the website nickschlee.co.uk