This website is a long overdue archive celebrating the life of Oliver Clare, his father George and his brother Vincent.
It was early in 1968 shortly after I had started in the art business that I was visiting a local gallery in Birmingham owned by Eric Jones. A well-known and respected art and antique dealer, he had opened a gallery “Kestrel House” in Erdington on the outskirts of Birmingham. I had gone to view a painting I was considering buying and it was on this visit that I first encountered the paintings of Oliver Clare.
There, hanging on his walls, were two pairs of still life paintings in their original gilded frames and I clearly remember how, as small paintings, they stood out so strongly. When I questioned Mr. Jones about them he was most enthusiastic about them and said that they would be among the most collected of works as this was a local artist who had been painting in the Birmingham area in the late 19th century and early 20th century and were in many of the old houses Eric Jones used to call on when out buying his antiques and paintings.
At this time there was not a particularly strong collector market in the art world generally so I was a little surprised about what Eric Jones had just told me. In my view, at that time, it was unusual to see art collected in any quantity. People just tended to buy a painting to hang over the fireplace or for decoration. That was the idea I had in my mind from what I had seen and experienced up until then but was to find out very soon that what he had told me was in fact perfectly true.
On a visit to an old friend in Little Aston Park, Sutton Coldfield, on entering his house I noticed with no little surprise and indeed delight he had six of these little still life paintings by Oliver Clare hanging on his dining-room walls. When I questioned him about them he explained he had bought them from Mr. Jones at Kestrel House and was considering buying two more.
I had known this friend of mine for many years and he had never even considered buying paintings until he bought these from the gallery. When I asked him why he found them so appealing, he said that it was their gem like quality and sheer wall power that emanated from these small paintings. Precisely executed in oil to fineness where you couldn’t even see the brush stroke and the droplets of water on the fruit which you felt you could almost wipe off. He said they were exactly the art form which the average person can clearly understand. Nothing complicated, with no attempt to create controversy or some complex emotion/message by the artist. Oliver Clare illustrated through his art nature’s bounty with his fruit and celebrated the beauty of the English hedgerow with his flowers and bird’s nests. A very English artist where the only message was what we all already understood.
It was to be only a matter of a couple of weeks before I came across more works by Clare. A local bookmaker, Terry Wallin, well known in the area had started to collect them and had a considerable number of them hanging around his house. Terry, who I had recently come to know quite well, completely reaffirmed what I had been told earlier by Eric Jones and my friend and I became even more convinced that Oliver Clare would become highly regarded and widely sought after. This artist was surely going to be a big name in the area and it was the local businessmen who were acquiring them in fairly large numbers. How right he was!
By this time I had also fallen under the spell of this artist and had started to buy some for myself as well as for sale and, to this day fifty years on, I have to confess to being still as ardent an admirer of Oliver Clare’s paintings as ever I was. I am even more inspired by them when I see so much art I cannot call “fine” or even good fetch such huge amounts just because they have been promoted by “clever marketing”.
Over the years I have sold many hundreds of paintings by Oliver Clare, not just to local people in the area I lived and worked in, but all over the world. These stunning paintings, still reasonably priced and by a genuinely talented artist, will continue to draw ever more people to them. Collectors of the future will delight in the fact that from such a small beginning in the late 1960’s his reputation has spread and he is widely collected the world over.