Hugo Grenville is a renowned British Contemporary Painter whose work stands as a symbol of promise in a world where satire and cynicism predominate. Like the paintings made by Bonnard and Matisse during the Second World War, none of which allude to the grim reality of daily life, his work is grounded in the need to celebrate life, and to express our sense of existence through the recognition of the transforming power of colour and light.
Hugo Grenville first exhibited in London at the Chelsea Arts Society at the age of 15, although it took him another 14 years to become a full time painter. After leaving school he travelled the Hippy Trail to India, ran out of money, joined the Coldstream Guards and served as an officer in Northern Ireland, West Africa, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) during the Civil War, and finally as an Aide-de-Camp to C-in-C British Army of the Rhine, during which time he painted whenever possible, and studied part-time at Chelsea School of Art and Heatherley’s.
Working first in advertising and then as an art dealer, he finally submitted to the need to paint full-time at the age of 30. With 20 one-man shows under his belt at major galleries in London, New York and Palm Beach, Hugo has forged an enviable reputation as one of the country’s leading colourist painters, resulting in invitations to lecture and teach from institutions such as Falmouth School of Art and the V & A Museum. His fabric designs were included in the Liberty’s Spring/Summer Collection of 2011, and he was short listed for the Threadneedle Prize in 2013. In 2016, Hugo was invited to have a one man show at Studio 2000, Holland.
Grenville refers to himself as a romantic but acknowledges a fascination with pattern and color that places him in the tradition of Henri Matisse. The figures and the everyday objects that surround them in his paintings express his joy in life, light, and color. Less evident, but equally important, is a feeling of intimacy that recalls Matisse contemporaries, Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard. It is here that we see Grenville being influenced by the principles of Les Nabis – a group of young post-impressionists, avant-garde Parisian artists of the 1890s who influenced the fine arts at the turn of the century. One of the Les Nabis’ goals was to integrate daily life into their paintings and cover a flat surface with colors assembled in a certain order, as we see Grenville doing with such grace and sensitivity. Layers of feeling peel back to disclose a spiritual intensity. In the artist’s words, “the world around us becomes a poem revealing something about how it feels rather than how it looks.”
Grenville also describes himself as a colorist. His palette is bright and jaunty: lemon yellow, violet, mauve, and pale blue are colors that appear regularly in his paintings. “The sea does not have to be the blue that you saw,” he explains. “It can be pink, or it might be red, or it might be violet. There is this sense that we can use color as a tool for linking the viewer with the emotional experience of being in the landscape.”
Several years ago, Grenville moved from London to the West Country. He paints almost ceaselessly at his vast studio inside a chapel schoolhouse built in 1794. In the Summer months Hugo holds several Masterclasses with his many students who travel from around the world to Dorset to attend.
In addition to teaching, he is a gifted lecturer with extensive knowledge of art history and a writer whose articles on painting appear regularly in The Artist Magazine.
During his career he has painted many portraits of leading figures, including the late Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Runcie, and the counter-tenor Michael Chance in the role of Orpheus at the ENO; he was an Official War Artist in Bosnia in 1995, and has been commissioned by a number of institutions including the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers, Edinburgh City Council and The China Club, Hong Kong.