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CountryClubuk Art and Antiques Gallery

Have your portrait painted by one of our five major artists-in-residence

Our chosen portraitists have been selected by Sara Stewart, Britain’s leading patron in the genre, whose grandmother was agent for Augustus John.We are delighted to introduce their work to members, starting here with Nicky Philipps.

SARA STEWART, founder of Fine Art Commissions, is Britain’s leading patron of portrait artists. She started the company in 1997, having perceived a welcome revival in portraiture. But her role might equally have been genetically imprinted. Her grandmother, Lady Cochrane, was one of the first agents for commissioned portrait artists, including Augustus John and Sir James Gunn.

Today, she has 40 of the country’s most talented portrait painters under her wing, including many she has nurtured from young unknowns into National Portrait Gallery material. With the same flair as the great theatrical agents of old, she has organised commissions for several members of the Royal Family and many leading cultural, social and business figures. Too discreet to reveal the names of her prestigious clients, she is distinctly pragmatic.

When she was director of the Malcolm Innes Gallery in London, in her early art world years, she says, ‘People would come in and look at a picture of, say, a dead stag, and then ask if I knew where they could get the-their wife painted.’ At the time, Sara was sharing a flat with an artist who was the first student to emerge from the Cecil school in Florence (now a well-known breeding ground for portraitists), and who did not know how to get commissions. ‘I realised then that there was a gap,’ she says.

Walk into her Bury Street gallery today and you will see a series of neatly arranged black books. These are portfolios of the artists’ work, arranged by subject: children, adults, house murals, pets and animals. These books make easy-to-use, simple references for clients to peruse, before deciding which artist’s style and medium suits them.

Sara’s selection procedure for artists on her books is rigorous. ‘I do not care whether artists have had commissions or not,’ she says. ‘I want to see someone who has a good body of work behind them— who has at least practised drawing for two years. I turn down about 30 artists a week, which is very frustrating. ’ She chooses only those who are ‘consistently good’—those who can paint a genuine heirloom. This unerring eye for quality will ensure that she remains a talented scion of the art world for years to come.

Artist One - Nicky Philipps
Nicky Philipps has portrait painting in her blood. Two of her grandparents were artists. Her parents and her sister have also followed the same path. She grew up in London, where she trained at the City and Guilds School of Fine Art, followed by an apprenticeship at the Studio Cecil Graves in Florence. Philipps is now one of the most popular and fashionable portraitists of today. She has held several successful major exhibitions, her show in Cork Street, London, in 2001 selling 30 paintings in the first hour. Her high profile commissions include author Ken Follett, the Marquis and Marchioness of Zetland, Countess Peel, Viscount Long, Lord Ancram and the Lord Mayor of London, Sir David Howard. Fees: portraits upwards of £10,000; still lifes from £2,500.

Artisit Two - Nick Bashall
Introducing Nick Bashall, our second artist-in-residence at CountryClubuk and one of Britain’s top portrait painters. Nick Bashall was born in England and raised in Zimbabwe. He studied law at Cambridge University where he was also a Boxing Blue. After several years as a lawyer in London and abroad, he changed career and spent five years at art school in Majorca, studying under Joaquim Torrens Llado. In July 1999, under armed protection, he painted the landing of The First Parachute Battalion in Pristina. He stayed on in Kosovo at General Jackson’s request to paint a group portrait of the NATO, UN and Kosovan Liberation Army command. Together the pictures required a total of 75 individual portraits, some full length and all painted from life. In February 2002, flown by the RAF into Kabul, he was the first and only foreign artist then allowed into Afghanistan. Over two months he painted several canvases on the crowded streets of Kabul, under the armed protection of the Parachute and Gurkha Regiments. The paintings were the subject of an article in the Daily Telegraph and an exhibition at the Arndean Gallery, Cork Street. In early 2004 he spent a month in Basra, where he worked on two military commissions. Bashall’s popularity continues to grow. His work forms part of private and corporate collections nationwide, and commissions include HRH The Princess Royal for The Household Cavalry, the children of the Duke of Westminster, General Sir Michael Jackson for The Parachute Regiment, and Sir Hew Hamilton Dalrymple for the Royal Company of Archers. Sittings normally take one to two days, lasting two to three hours each (with breaks) for charcoal drawings, and from two to eight days at two to three hours each (with breaks) for oils. Sittings for children are best held in the mornings. He prefers to paint in his studio, but he will travel. His charges vary from £3,400 for a charcoal head and shoulders to over £17,000 for a full-length portrait in oils on canvas. We offer them at an exclusive 5% discount to members.


CountryClubuk and Fine Art Commissions have chosen the five most impressive and appropriate artists to paint portrait commissions for members. They are Nicky Philipps (featured this month), Mikael Melbye, Valery Gridnev, Marcus Hodge and Nicholas Bashell, who will be featured in future months. To see their work now, visit the internet gallery arrange a viewing with Sara Stewart, please call us on 020 7935 0888. The minimum fee for a work is £950, the maximum about £50,000. Prices depend on the scale of the work and the artist’s renown. CountryClubuk has secured a special and exclusive relationship with Fine Art Commissions. Our members receive a 5% discount on these five artists’ fees.










33 Cavendish Square, London, W1G 0PW. UK. Tel: 020 7935 0888. Fax: 020 7182 4166. Web: