Quick five questions with Philip Mould Director – Philip Mould & Company13th September 2023
Your career started in very specific English portraiture. What made you broaden your interests?
Any great portraitist can usually portray more than just a face. I was led by leading portrait painters like Gainsborough, Millais and Sargent into their mastery of other genres – primarily landscape. This led me onto discover Cedric Morris, a master of many types of subject (including portraits) and most memorably, flowers.
Cedric Morris (1889-1982) Still Life, Nasturtiums and Pears, 1952. Oil on canvas. 16 ¼ x 26 in (41 x 66 cm). © Philip Mould & Company.
Have you ever bought a painting you loved so much you had to keep it?
Yes. And I swore I would forever hang onto it. It was beautifully muted sketch of two children singing, by the 17th century artist Peter Lely. But after twenty-five years our taste changed. Something I now realise you have to recognise. Heartlessly, you might say, I recently moved it on. In its place is a colourful blaze of Bloomsbury colour in the form of set of paintings in a collaboration between Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell.
Duncan Grant. 1885-1978. Eight Studies for Murals at John Maynard Keynes’ rooms, 1920. Oil on canvas. Each: 33 x 14 in (83.8 x 35.5 cm). © Philip Mould & Company
In your TV programme, what has been your most extraordinary discovery?
A large cache of drawings by the teenage Toulouse-Lautrec. The owners had been selling them and giving them away as unattributed. The French experts rejected them at first, despite our significant volume of evidence, but later retracted and accepted them (after the programme had gone out).
What changes have you noticed in St Jame’s over the period you have worked there? You are now a member of the Athenaeum Club having given many talks there before becoming a member, does it feel different now?
As the fashion houses moved into Mayfair big time in the last ten to twenty years, so I was obliged to beat a retreat from Bond Street and then Dover Street, to Pall Mall. I feel like I’ve moved two three spaces along the Monopoly board of life. But I love it here in London’s noble clubland. I look with awe upon Barry’s great Reform Club facade every day. And since the contra flow and pedestrianisation has happened it is no longer primarily the relentless road from Trafalgar Square I remember in my youth. I’m also delighted Farlows, the venerable fishing shop, as unlikely as it might have turned out, has stalwartly survived the Mall’s ebbs and flows.
Your lockdown posts about your home art was mesmerising. Does your family share you love for art and the value it brings to the house?
My wife Catherine certainly does. And I think in lockdown our paintings functioned even more as something that is one of their great benefits (and this applies to all: to act as windows, portals if you like, through which the imagination can escape).