Thomas Newbolt: Drama Painting A Modern Baroque at Piano Nobile

Thomas Newbolt’s work is an investigation into the character of his subject through the terrific personality of his delicious layers of paint. These he uses to illuminate the viewer and bring them inside the glow of his work and in their monumental scale, her personality is laid bare for all to see. Not precious in his style, Newbolt is exploratory, each mark more exciting as you approach his paintings from a distance at the enormous space that Piano Nobile inhabits. In this new exhibition 3 years after winning the Ruth Borchard Self Portraiture Competition, Newbolt’s work is magnificent in amount and its sheer size.

Figure X, 2013

 Easily my favourite of all the work is 'Figure X ,2013' in which you have a true sense of Newbolt working away with intense concentration in his almost blacked out studio. The photograph hasn’t done justice to the deep crimson that jumps out at the viewer and the exquisite detail of the shoe and the pattern of the rug. There are obvious associations with Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff more so, because of the high opinions of these two contemporary artists are held in, by the other tutors at The Royal Drawing School where Newbolt is a member of the senior faculty. Personally I find Newbolt’s portaits of this unnamed girl more fascinating than Auerbach or Kossoff simply through his use of such vivid colour. His ‘Modern Baroque” is not detail in the original baroque sense but one of colour, of ravishing notes that sing to the observer, drawing them into the dark romance of his dashingly layered style.


Figure, Red Sofa, 2010

 The Artist himself is quiet, unassuming and tremendously polite, in contrast to his very forceful work. ‘I was ecstatic with the way the show was curated’ he told me, ‘I had never imagined that the pictures could look like that.’ Newbolt works in semi darkness with a memorized palette and almost never from life. When he won the Ruth Borchard Self Portraiture Competition in 2013, Celia Paul, one of the judges described his method as ‘most concerned with the possibilities of paint’. For me this resonated most strongly with his use of white, a colour seen most often as a dampener or to add tone, Newbolt elevates it in importance making it a colour in its own right and electrifying his other darker tones.

Green Dress, 2010 (detail)

The word ‘baroque’ comes from the Portugese word barocco meaning ‘misshapen pearl’ a wonderful description of Newbolt’s practice I think. ‘Figure I, 2015’ seems almost half finished, the paint incredibly thin at times, it is almost a study rather than a finished piece yet of all the work it is the most lively. The colour and excitement and sheer love of texture make it the most baroque of all.

 Thomas Newbolt’s new exhibition ‘Drama Painting A Modern Baroque’ coincides with the Baroque Unwrapped Music Programme at Kings Place and runs until 4th May 2016.

Figure I, 2015


Written by Beatrice Hasell-McCosh

Editorial Assistant for