Painting Beauty at its Finest
A highly respected English figurative painter, William Oxer is known primarily for his exquisite – and much sought after – depictions of the female form
Article by Adrian Peel
A passionate artist driven by traditional ideas of how beauty should be represented, William Oxer’s previous projects include assisting with large-scale designs for interiors in historic houses such as Goodwood House, Buckingham Palace, Petworth House and Hatchlands Park. He lived at the latter for approximately eight months back in 1996, working with restorer and interiors expert, Alec Cobbe.
Oxer paints in a romantic and classical style and has also turned his hand to abstracts, landscapes and seascapes. Over the past 25 years, this talented 44-year-old, originally from Dorset, has undertaken regular portrait commissions for private clients and produced artworks for exhibitions and collectors across the globe. Other achievements of note include period decoration and exhibition design in places such as Christie’s and the Building of Bath Museum, also known as The Museum of Bath Architecture.
Professor Sir Roger Scruton, a renowned writer and philosopher who made a television documentary in 2009 entitled Why Beauty Matters, said of him: “William Oxer is not merely a painter; he is a distinctive sensibility, with a poetic vision he explores in many media. His art is affirmative, evocative and forgiving and offers us, in short, a return to the true and serious tradition.”
“I’m currently working on two paintings,” said William, commenting on his present activities. “One of a girl lying in the grass – a romantic yet thought provoking scene – and a large scale work of a woman and a man in a bar sipping a drink, which is altogether more sophisticated and yet, in its own way, just as mysterious.
“I also like plucking out works I have stored away for a year or more which were not working for me at the time. With fresh eyes, I find myself reinventing works I had largely dismissed, only to find that sometimes they can be even better than I could have hoped for.”
Discussing his chosen angle as an artist, William continued: “I am indeed something of a traditionalist. Looking back on my earlier years, I was most definitely in that era of self-absorbed eccentricity – some might say pretentiousness.
“I was modelling myself on the quasi-intellectual artistic groups of the early 20th century and my artworks were somewhat melancholy and angry. Now my works are far more restful and, dare I say, enjoyable – I hope to myself and more importantly to the viewer and collector.”
His models have included relatives, friends, strangers, paid models from agencies or friends of friends through social media. “I love to paint anyone and anything,” he said. “I have painted people’s beloved cats and dogs before – but needless to say I have also had quite a number of interesting clients who seem to find me out of the aether. This is indeed the power of the internet.
“I’ve had some quite influential business people from all over the world approach me – more women than men, at the last count. One request for a portrait was from a business owner in Hong Kong whose email I received at 3am and by 3.20am she had paid me up front – a very ideal customer!”
These days, William paints almost exclusively in acrylics, though does tend to use oils and mixed media for his abstracts, which he usually paints during the summer. “There’s nothing better than warm grass underfoot and throwing paint around on a huge canvas in the garden in the sunshine,” he enthuses. “But I also enjoy the cosy evenings of autumn and winter by the fire, painting smaller, more subdued and reflective works.”
On how he first got started on the road to success, William remembered: “I have drawn and painted since my first scrawl on my parents’ wall in crayon as a toddler. I have memories of being disgusted as a six-year-old at school as they used crayons and I could not get a decent line or definition with them.
“I always felt that I was basically born a painter, yet I was told to believe that one could not make a living as an artist. This is an assumption of which I despair. I worked in banking, in interior design [William ran his own interior design business doing up large country houses in his home county for 15 years] and various ludicrous and soul-destroying jobs. Then in 2011, after a divorce and losing the house, I decided to pack up and move to Devon to be with my family. “I spent the next few weeks and months pondering and said to myself, ‘What am I really good at? What if, with life really stripped to the bone, I could do anything I wanted, no matter what?’
“The answer was already within me and I knew it. I picked up a paintbrush after many, many years of hiatus and I’ve never looked back. I am much happier now pursuing my art career at home in Devon. I have my estate workers’ cottage 15 minutes’ walk from the sea on the south west coast and I have my little daily routines which make me sincerely happy.
“I have my gardens and my potting shed and my paints and my dogs, who I take out for a good two hours in the afternoon to clear my mind and think upon my artwork. Johanna, my partner, is a professional violinist so she will be practising upstairs whilst I paint happily downstairs. It is a bucolic life and frankly far nicer than living in a vast, people-less stately home.”
Reflecting on his life and career, William concluded: “If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t be me now. The ifs and buts and vagaries of life cannot be dismantled for me like that. I feel I have been granted many exciting opportunities seemingly out of the blue. “But I must say – and this is no great mystery – that with sound positive thinking, faith and productivity, the wheels of good fortune and new possibilities abound seemingly out of nowhere. If I put in energy and creativity, I find rewards in so many ways and each one knows no bounds.
“This year I am starting to have a feeling of excitement and drive that I have not really felt before. I’m looking forward with a real sense of quiet excitement and ambition for 2017 and all the years (hopefully) ahead!”
South Gate Gallery - Exeter
The Risborough Gallery, Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire.
Riddle Magazine - Interview May 2017
Cosmopolitan Magazine - Artist Gallery November 2014
Roco Interior Design Magazine - Interview Feature September 2014
Saatchi Art Magazine - Interview Feature November 2013
Nottingham Fine Art
Gallery In The Square - Usk
Tetbury Art Gallery - Spencer House, Tetbury, Gloucestershire
Buy Art Fair - Manchester
Haddon Gallery - Torquay
Papillon - Edinburgh
The Museum - Farnham, Dorset
Shaftesbury Arts Centre - Shaftesbury
The James Gallery - Budleigh Salterton
The Building of Bath Museum - Bath
Christies - St James', London
Trafalgar Park - Salisbury
Poole Library - Poole, Dorset
Serenata - Purbeck, Dorset
With a history in interior design, previous engagements include creating large-scale painted designs for interior projects in historic houses such as Goodwood House, Buckingham Palace, Petworth House and Hatchlands Park working with restorer and interiors expert, Alec Cobbe. William has also undertaken a variety of projects including period decoration and exhibition design in places such as Christies, St James (William Beckford Exhibition) and the Building of Bath Museum.