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The Jardine Matheson Commission and City Views

John Wonnacott


May 29 – July 3, 2014

New York: Looking to Brooklyn Bridge, 2000-2002

New York: Looking to Brooklyn Bridge


Oil on board

36 x 48 in (92 x 122cm)

Saint Paul’s Cathedral, 2006

Saint Paul’s Cathedral


Oil on board

48 x 60 in (122 x 153 cm)

Taipans on the 48TH Floor, 2013

Taipans on the 48TH Floor


Oil on canvas

42 x 60 in (107 x 153 cm)

Chambers Fine Art is pleased to announce the opening on May 29, 2014 of John Wonnacott: The Jardine Matheson Commission and City Views. John Wonnacott (b. 1940) is one of Great Britain’s leading figurative artists, closely associated with the loosely affiliated group known as the School of London. After graduating from the Slade School of Art in the early 1960s he has never deviated from a working method focused exclusively on direct observation whether the subject be portrait or landscape. Martin Gayford has written of him that in spite of his passionate devotion to the great tradition of Western painting, he is “an emphatically contemporary artist, painting the world with a degree of precision and intellectual rigor that few today can match. Perspective has long been regarded – since even before the advent of high modernism, perhaps – as dull, academic, old hat. But John Wonnacott has discovered in it new possibilities. It is his mechanism for investigating what he sees, reintegrating it on a canvas and setting in train an intricate dance of formal relationships.” 

An ongoing pre-occupation has been portraits of family and friends and the landscape around his home and studio in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex but he is also widely recognized for commissioned portraits culminating in The Royal Family, A Centenary Portrait, 1999-2000 (now in The National Portrait Gallery, London). Early in 2012 Wonnacott was commissioned to paint a group portrait of four of the directors of Jardine Matheson, the powerful international conglomerate founded in Hong Kong in July, 1832. He was asked to use as his model a painting by the English artist, George Chinnery, On Dent’s Veranda, which represents four foreign traders sitting on the balcony of the house belonging to Jardine’s principal rival at the time. 

Wonnacott was able to make life-studies from three of the directors based in London although he had to wait until he got to Hong Kong before he was able to draw and paint the fourth director. During a stay of several weeks he familiarized himself with the setting chosen for the group portrait – an office on the 48th floor of Jardine House – and worked on a preliminary study for the painting that after going through several stages was completed in his studio in Essex. Although not large in scale, Taipans on the 48th Floor is rigorously planned and densely packed with meaning, a celebration of Jardine as a merchant trading company that departs from close observation of specific individuals and settings and ricochets backwards in time to its founding. 

Also included in the exhibition are five remarkable city views, two of Hong Kong completed in 2014, two of New York painted in 2000-2002 and in complete contrast, a view of Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece, Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Wonnacott’s work is included in numerous public collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA; the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; Tate Britain; the National Portrait Gallery, London; the House of Commons, London; the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh.

“约翰·旺纳科特:怡和洋行及城市景观”是一组由人物肖像和城市景观组成的展览。约翰·旺纳科特是英国最重要的写实派画家,与伦敦学派有着紧密联系。 2012年初他受托为7月份在香港成立的集团公司怡和洋行的四位董事创作一组人物肖像。他用19世纪英国艺术家乔治·钱纳利的油画“On Dent’s Veranda为原型,画中四个外国商人坐当时怡和洋行最主要的竞争对手家的阳台上。虽然画作的尺寸不大,作品‘48层上的大班’布局严谨且意义深刻,通过放弃对人物及地点的紧密描写从而回到贸易公司创立的最初。



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