Steven Spurrier, R.A., R.O.I., R.B.A. (1878-1961)
signed ‘SPURRIER’ (lower right)
oil on canvas
28 x 36 in. (71.2 x 91.5 cm.)
London, Royal Academy, 1953, no. 124.
London, The Cafe Royal, The Arts and the Cafe Royal: London after Dark (1866-1956), 29 June - 29 July 1956, winning first prize.
Steven Spurrier, R.A. (1878-1961)
The ocean depths
signed ‘STEVEN SPURRIER’ (lower right)
oil on canvas
24 x 36 in. (60.9 x 91.4 cm.)
frame 30 x 42 in. (76.2 x 106.8 cm.)
An unusual choice of subject matter, it’s not often that one comes across an artist’s depiction of the ocean floor. From the age of the canvas, it’s possible that the picture dates to the mid-20th Century, which would tie in with a surge of interest in the mysteries of the ocean, made accessible by colour television, improvements in diving technology and underwater filming.
Spurrier presents the viewer with a momentary glimpse into a Nemo-esque aquatic world, where oceanic creatures interact with each other, whilst going about their everyday business. The only hint of humankind is a pot, from which an octopus hastily exits, as if disturbed by the viewer - or indeed artist. Shells line the bed, along with plants and coral, while a starfish feels its way across the sand. Urchins are attached to dark rocks that essentially frame the composition, increasing the dramatic contrast of the red snapper’s colourful display, and helping create a backlight that accentuates the silhouettes of the fish and reeds.
It’s interesting to note that Steven Spurrier’s contemporary, Glynn Philpot, R.A. (1884-1937) produced an underwater work Under the sea (Anonymous Sale; Christie’s, 24 November 2016, lot 170, sold for £85,000), in circa 1914. Spurrier first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1913, became an associate in 1945, and was elected a full member in 1952.