© copyright The Artist


Stephen Farthing (1951 – )


123 X 107 CM
Accession number


Farthing is an erudite painter, and several successive enthusiasms have been apparent in his career. From the Cubism of Braque and Leger he derived formal diversity, a self-consciousness about painting manners, and the subject matter of still-life themes in flattened space. After a period in Rome as an Abbey Major Scholar he made many paintings of buildings, and this strong architectural interest remained evident in a subsequent series of depicting the internal space of furnished rooms. His work is generally economical, using the briefest means to suggest his view. Farthing has a dry, pointed humour that enjoys the comparison of the decorative painter’s art of tompe l’oeilwith the game bird’s art of camouflage. The conventions of art are always interposed between any direct perception and its record in painting: here the conventions of the ‘picturesque’ and ‘rural’ are tackled in a way to suggest that the artistic appreciation of the genre depends on ignorance of the actuality. Through much of his work there is an ironic awareness of the fact that an artist’s perceptions about matters even of life and death may be accidental.

Farthing was born and brought up in London, but by chance lived for a period in a small village in the Kent coalfields. ‘I had no interest in living in the ‘country’ until I ended up owning a seventeenth century house … (the best place I have ever lived) … (The surroundings were) ‘very rural – no commuters – and there were a lot of tractors going past the front door. Just before leaving the ‘country house’ I painted a bunch of paintings so as to remember it. Traditional Coverdealt with a particular aspect of country living … As much as there’s a lot of growing there’s also a lot of killing. Hidden in all that picturesque there’s always something rather sinister. In this picture a bird walks across some spent cartridges – probably drawn to them thinking they may be food'.