Like the cabbage, the cauliflower is a rustic, peasant vegetable, with none of the romance of smooth, gemlike cherries, the dark exoticism of aubergines or even the subtle Impressionist bronze of onions. There has been an occasional great cauliflower painting (George Lambert’s wonderfully illuminated cumulus of 1926, and, slightly earlier, Alfred Hirv’s snowy composition with cucumbers and onions). These are just very good paintings of still-life arrangements, however; they lack Stephen Rose’s ability to imbue the most unpromising and humble organism with a profound inner life. His cauliflower is unadorned and almost untrimmed; it lies in its Baroque swathe of blue-green leaves, meditating on its own transience, one leaf trailing like a broken wing, beginning to darken and wilt; a pure, creamy memento mori, like an ivory skull, set in an abandoned and undefined space which prickles with apocalyptic imminence.
Stephen Rose was born in Rochford, Essex, in 1960. His career as an artist began when, aged 8, he saw a print of Caravaggio’s Conversion of St Paul. He was trained at the Medway College of Art (1979-80), Cheltenham College of Art (1980-83; BA Hons in Fine Art), the British School in Rome (1982), and the Royal Academy of Art (1983-86; Diploma in Fine Art). In 1992 he was elected Brother of the Art Workers Guild, Bloomsbury, London.
He has won various awards, including the British Institute Award, 1983; the Royal Academy Painting Prize, 1984; the Landseer Scholarship, 1985; the Richard Ford Travelling Scholarship, 1986 (when he studied at the Prado, Madrid); and the Royal Overseas League International Painting Competition Travelling Prize, 1987 (when he visited in northern India). He has exhibited at the ICA, the Mall Galleries, the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and the National Portrait Gallery (BP Portrait Competition); in 2001 he had his first one-man exhibition at Target, in Munich, Germany.
Publications: How to paint in oils, Winsor & Newton, 2008