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Contemporary Fine Art

Artists > William Balthazar Rose

Introduction by Professor Edward Chaney

In his introductory essay to this Exhibition Catalogue William Rose, Tradition and an Individual talent, Edward Chaney, Professor of fine and Decorative Arts at Southampton Solent University writes:

Rose's pictures may initially remind the Anglo-Saxon eye of those pictures in restaurants one sees whilst touring Italy. The apparent similarity is partly attributable to Rose's immersion in mid-twentieth-century Italian art that is, as has been said, unfamiliar in Anglo-Saxony. But on closer inspection and all the more evident when one has the opportunity of seeing a group of his pictures together as in this exhibition is the accumulative quality of his work. Rare qualities they have in common then strike one afresh when one returns to view each, independent creation. Though there are other British and American artists who have opted to live and work in Italy in order to work self-consciously in the Renaissance tradition, Rose is clearly not one of these derivative painters. He has forged his own style which is now as recognizable as the style of any great master. What might at first strike one as a mannerism becomes something one cannot quite imagine being any other way. Even the hats, quasi-comical but also quasi-pharanoic or Chinese or Balthusian have an inevitability about them. A melancholy that is not, however, depressing pervades the whole surface of the cavas or board. Timeless questions hang in the air; something is about to be enacted but never quite carried out. The figures and faces have interesting surfaces but are depicted without much detail, leaving the viewer to fill in the missing visual and thus conceptual account.

In many of the pictures some sort of interrrogation is going on, reminding one of Kafka's  'before the law'' ('vor dem Gesetz'). A seated philospher type is questioning a cook who may or not be answering back. One such cook  is walking defiantly away from such interrogation, head-back and meat-cleaver at the ready as if in preparation for war. Apparently crude passages of painting belie the quality of the total composition, who unity the brushwork supports. The sense of mystery is present whatever the subject matter.' 

Working in the wake of the great master Balthus (died 2001) Professor Chaney continues,' Rose is profoundly rooted in tradition (including a family one), justifiably proud of his 'visual intellect'; he expresses 'significant emotion, emotion which has its life in the poem (or picture) and not in the history of the poet' or painter. He is rooted in the painterly equivalent of Leavis's Great Tradition' yet is unmistakeably contemporary. Rose is in his 40's. Caravaggio was dead by this age, but Rembrandt's greatest pictures were still to come.


William Balthazar Rose was born in 1961 in Great Britain. His love for art originated in childhood. Influenced by the air of  interest for divergent artistic expression he breathed in his family, he began to draw and paint.

He studied in the USA, at the Universities of California and Princeton, where he graduated in Art and successively in Architecture. Italian art and culture fascinated him so much that he decided to settle in Il Nostro Paese, in Sansepolcro, between Umbria and Tuscany, where he is now living.

His painting is hermetic, the forms are simple an indefinite; notable is the influence he has received from artists such as Piero della Francesca, Ottone Rosai and Giorgio Morandi in painting, Federico Fellini and Pier Paolo Pasolini in cinema.

He has taken part  in many personal and collective exhibitions in Italy and above all in England and the USA. On these occasions he has been appreciated greatly by both public and critics.

The twin world by Paolo Turcis

William Balthazar Rose's painting is based on different artistic traditions, the result of an unlimited figurative culture. From the genial cubist  revolution to the lessons of the metaphysical, from the rarefied atmospheres of Morandi's still lives, to the harmonies of Renaissance art, the most intense artistic experiences of the past centuries are revived in these paintings full of visual charm. An extraordinary chromatic ability together with refined technical skills make up the artist's highly remarkable style.

A sensitive man, Rose is polyedric and eccentric, inclined by nature to an intimate study of reality, made up of pauses and silence. In his paessaggi a delicate atmospheric vibration is perceived, evoking the most suggestive landscapes of 19th century romantic painting that the artist appreciated during his stay in France.

To these mnemonic annotations should be added the predilection for the Tiber Valley; that noble setting, that ideal background pierfrancescano thus confirms its vocation as a place of artistic inspiration. Rose is an attentive and patient observer of that which is revealed in the 'mirabile propozione' between the background and human activities of this place,  something that has been drawing artists, men of letters and simple tourists to Tuscany, from all over the world. The myth of Mediterranean Classicism has bewitched also Rose, who upon leaving Great Britain with the enthusiasm of a Grand Tour traveller, decided to settle in Italy.

This decision manifests itself in the passionate homage to the Italian figurative art Rose so deeply knows. He is attracted by the solidity of form, the bold masks, but above all, it is the mastery of composition, which distinguishes the classical measure of his aesthetic canon. Precise, metric ratios stabilize the innate harmonic correspondence of his figuration. The calm rhythms of his painting tell of a condition indifferent to the factors of space and time; an eternal circumstance, in which the reproduced gesture becomes a figurative witnessing of non-altering human action. In the quiet transparency of the pastoral scenes one can perceive the desire to return to the cosy womb of nature, to a remote and happy Arcadia.

This poetic behaviour expresses ulterior meanings beyond the animated chromatic backdrops. A germinating, twin world emerges, speculative, but of inverted tones, similar to the negative of a photograph. Enigmas one could say, obscure prophecies that break up the idyllic woods. The calm equilibrium recalling the aulic indifference of Piero becomes remote reference, visionary transfiguration, and ironic quotation.

A thick haze obscures the backgrounds of certain disquieting paintings. From darkness emerge cooks grasping cleavers, and mysterious solitary tennis players. What has occurred in Rose's painting? What is the motive for these sudden changes in expression? Where is the world promised in the joyful series of landscapes? The radiant harmony has vanished, leaving only a trace in  the incisive brushwork, which underlines the geometric rigour. In these works the sign reaches its highest expressive point: it thickens and turns livid as covering shadows lengthen their sickle of darkness.

The calm landscape meditation, stirred up by patient work en plain air is swept away by the frenzied agitation of life. The brutality of history, in its tragic evolution breaks into the scene overwhelming the harmonic movement of nature. Perhaps the ascertainment of a failure to relate has provoked this expressive reaction: human society in opposition to the rational of the natural organism has jeopardized the links which defined its belonging.  Once again the door of Earthly Paradise has been closed and the human drama of sufferance has been renewed.

Perception of pain, and reflection on violence spur the expressive vein, which even reaches the grotesque. Nevertheless, figuration resists, though it becomes dark, appearing rigid and detached. In front of the brutality of daily life, the rational utopia of form is dangerously wavering.

Solo Exhibitions

1992   San Francisco - California (USA) Campbell-Thiebaud Gallery

1993   Bath (GB) Anthony Hepworth Fine Art

1994   La Jolla - California (USA) Thomas Babeor and Company

1995   San Francisco - California (USA) Campbell-Thiebaud Gallery

1996   La Jolla - California Thomas Babeor and Company

1997   Santa Cruz - California (USA) Eloise Picard Smith Gallery, University of California

2001   Monte Santa Maria Tiberina, Perugia (Italy) Festa d'Autunno

2002   Bath, (GB), R.E. Bucheli Gallery

2003   Anghiari (Italy)

2004   Bath (GB) Images of Bath and Italy, Victoria Art Gallery

2007   Sanselpolcro ( Italy) La Loggia Gallery.

2009    Bath (GB)   Gallery LeFort Fine Art

Collective Exhibitions

1981   Berkeley, California (USA) Three Painters, Wurster Hall, University of California

1985  Santa Cruz, California, (USA) Contermporary Santa Cruz Landscape Painters

            Eloise Pickard Smith Gallery


Mr. Bow Tie and his Circus Horses
William Balthazar Rose


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