Alan Stuttle’s self-portrait was painted in 1956, when he was just seventeen-years old, already studying at the College of Art in Stoke, at ‘a very emotional time.’
Alan Stuttle’s self-portrait was painted in 1956, when he was just seventeen-years old, already studying at the College of Art in Stoke, at ‘a very emotional time’: his mother had recently died, but he had also found that, through painting, he had embarked on a liberating adventure. It is a precociously assured portrayal of youthful innocence, resilience and shy detachment. His wavy, brown-golden hair is painted with especial vitality. The virtual indigo of his open-necked shirt contrasts well with his light skin tones. It is a painting in the modern English tradition of Sickert, Camden Town Group painters, and the Bloomsbury painters.
Born in Shavington, near Crewe, Cheshire in 1939, Stuttle studied painting and ceramics at the College in Stoke, where he was inspired by his teacher, the visionary local artist Arthur Berry, before gaining admission to the Royal College of Art in London at the age of eighteen. He has since described how his teachers Ruskin Spear, Carel Weight and Roger de Grey inspired him less by their actual and apparently sporadic teaching (in many ways, he found them rather aloof figures, considered by their students to be ‘demi-gods’) than by their example as living artists – though Spear especially would helpfully criticise students’ work.
Stuttle enjoyed the atmosphere of radical newness and surprise then predominating at the Royal College (fellow students included David Hockney, Allen Jones and Peter Phillips), though he says now that ‘I don’t think a lot of the old staff like Carel Weight knew quite what was happening’. What Stuttle prizes especially from his art training is how it ‘gave you an ability to draw as well as you can for the rest of your life’.
After leaving the R.C.A., Stuttle spent nine years as an art teacher himself but at the age of twenty-nine became a full-time artist. One of his favourite subjects has been the evidently sturdy, old-fashioned tramps who used to wander round the country in quite large numbers, seeking a free and independent way of life. Gentle gravitas characterises one such meticulous portrait, which honours but does not romanticise its subject.