Lucy Innes Williams, Bridgeman Artists' Manager speaks to the Artist's Estate about the influences of Ron Bone (1950-2011), an accomplished artist with a meticulous touch
What was Ron Bone’s working process and working day? I know that he taught for many years and so did his painting work or feel influenced by the work of his students?
He originally trained as a graphic designer, first at Bath Academy of Art and then at the Royal College of Art. He was an ideas man, with a curious nature and a great sense of humour. He loved to bounce ideas off other people, especially students, and so I believe he was a great teacher. As a painter he was very disciplined, he would work 7 days a week, and rarely take time off. He was driven. He was a perfectionist you see.
In Ron’s own words: “With acrylics I can apply the paint in very thin washes, push it around with my brushes, dab it with my fingers, or use it in a subtractive process - that is by putting paint on and then removing it, either by scrubbing into an area with a brush or blotting parts with tissue. And because acrylic dries so quickly it is possible to move on to another glaze, another thin layer of paint and keep refining and developing the painting in this way”.
Where did Ron most enjoy painting? So many of his scenes seem to depict a timeless, ageless space which avoids classification or specific location. Are these scenes imagined or adapted from real life?
Mostly his ideas evolved from a mixture of sources: from things seen, memorised and imagined. Everywhere he went he took photographs. Many of his inspirations were found in derelict farm buildings, and simple country interiors, echoing the work of Andrew Wyeth, the main influence and driving force in his work. The real reason he began painting in the first place was the Wyeth Exhibition at the Royal Academy, in 1980. He had a real connection with the work, a calling even. He was a great collector of beautiful things. He would scour auction houses, antiques shops and flea markets, for suitable objects to add to his interior scenes.
In Ron’s own words: “I see something somewhere and it just logs in my mind, whether its a background or a wall or a piece of furniture, and usually this is how a picture starts. It rarely begins as a complete image and quite often it will develop into something totally different from the initial idea. 90% of the time the subject matter is based on mood. Often, what has attracted me to an idea is its strong composition or very interesting shapes”.
The work of Ron Bone is often compared to that of Andrew Wyeth. I remember you mentioning that Ron’s reputation was developing in the United States at the time of his death. Tell us more about his popularity for this audience.
The similarities are clear. He was once compared, I think in the Telegraph, as “The English Andrew Wyeth”. He was very humbled by this. Wyeth was his hero, but also the Dutch masters, Vermeer in particular, There is one great painting of Ron’s called “Tea with Vermeer”. It is a homage to Vermeer. Ron had a great sense of humour. I would love to know where that painting is now.
In Ron’s own words: “ A chance visit to an exhibition of the work of the American painter Andrew Wyeth in 1980, reinforced my desire to paint simple strong emotive images. I do find that, because my background was in design and for a while in advertising, I approach a picture in the same way that a black and white photographer would. It has to be immediately a strong eye-catching powerful composition. Then, once I’ve caught the person’s attention, I can reveal more with the detail within the picture.I try to keep the elements in the painting as few as possible to get the powerful effect I’m looking for”.
And what was a successful painting for Ron? “ It is a painting that conveys mood - that is the overriding quality. If it suggests a feeling that you have been there, you know it and it’s comfortable, and you can almost smell the picture, then for me it has worked”.
Where are Ron’s works accessible to be viewed by the public? I know that Ron’s work was collected by a wide variety of people who still remain passionate advocates of his work today.
All are in private collections I’m afraid. Some occasionally come up at auction. There is a following yes, and we receive emails from collectors on a regular basis.
What were the key enduring influences, both visual or relationship-wise in Ron Bone’s work during his life?
Trained at the Bath Academy of Art in its heyday at Corsham Court, with visiting artists such as Terry Frost and William Scott, was an amazing start. Then the Royal College of Art, rubbing shoulders with advertising giants and contemporary visual artists. It was an exciting time. But I believe that his time at Corsham Court in Bath, instigated a lifelong appreciation of beautiful objects, art and architecture, which can be seen in his paintings. As mentioned before, Wyeth was a huge inspiration. In later life he became very interested in digital photography, both as reference for his paintings, and creative work in its own right.
How would the estate most like to see the work of Ron Bone explored in the context of licensing?
The estate would like to see his work appreciated on a wider scale. Ron was just starting to venture into portraiture at the time of his untimely death, aged 60, producing some outstanding work, and we will never know how that would have developed. Certainly the work he is known for - the rural scenes, the simple country interiors - portray a peaceful life, which most people connect with. These images we would love to see included in monographs and other published articles about the artist and his work. We would also be keen to explore licensing for greetings cards and limited edition prints.
What made the Estate of Ron Bone choose Bridgeman Images for copyright administration and image licensing?
It was essential for us that there was authorised control over how the images could be used in the future, in respect for the artist and family. Ron was such a perfectionist, it was important to us, and future generations, that an organisation with gravitas such as Bridgeman handles the licensing.