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Cecil Rice

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With an unswerving passion and artistic quench for the illustrative delights of Italy, with a strong emphasis on the seascapes and architecture redolent of this spectacular corner of the world, much celebrated contemporary landscape artist, Cecil Rice’s signature compositions are, as imagined, a sight to behold. And moreover, graphically-led sights which have ensured Rice a place at the top table when it comes to the UK’s leading lights in this ever-popular genre. Rice’s powerful and evocative watercolours and oils depicting such majestic seascapes and architecture have paved the way for the artist’s work to be universally recognised, and considered hugely collectable in recent times. Having now carved a successful living for himself from his paintings for the best part of three decades, Rice has been represented by UK galleries for a large chunk of this fruitful passage of time and since 1985.
Born in 1961, Rice has been a resident of Brighton, situated on England’s South coast since 1974, and originally studied painting at the town’s College of Art from where he graduated in 1983. Known the world over for his stunning watercoloured and oiled landscapes, Rice’s typical and well proven subject matter tends to be some of the globe’s most iconic cities and associated vistas and panoramas known for their outstanding natural beauty. Venice, Rome, Florence, Tuscany and Granada chief among the more obvious candidates, whilst the likes of Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, Amsterdam, Udaipur and even Rice’s native and much loved Brighton also making the starting eleven.
Inspiration for Rice is threefold, in as much as he cites a number of factors which have long made him reach for the paints at various times in his life. Artist-wise he counts such acknowledged luminaries as Turner, Monet, Matisse and other post-Impressionists, while much of the reason behind Rice’s insistence to take up painting in the first instance is down to his father’s influence. A respected sculptor in his own right, his father Sean always encouraged a young Rice at every opportunity. Elsewhere Rice quotes the Norwich School and what he refers to as ‘the intensity of colour and fluid vitality’ found in Emil Nolde’s work.
Staying resolutely within the traditional parameters of the bastion of British watercolour, Rice’s work is still further respected for its bold and contemporary vision and presentation, and serves as the perfect visual travelogue to accompany his very graphic pronunciation of where he’s been and when. Leaving us under no illusions as to his passion for continual roving and pictorially-savvy fact-finding as he goes, Rice comments; “Travel is important to me, providing me with new subjects and vivid impressions. Vast spaces, tracts of open water or breach, old mysterious places, early morning and late evening, are all fascinating to me”. To which nobody could argue otherwise.
The attention is in found in the detailing of Rice’s individual and collective works, and underlining this, the artist adds; “I always play close attention to drawing before I attempt any painting. Not that it is always appropriate to carry out an elaborate drawing, but I have to have a clear idea of the underlying structure”, stressing the importance of “The 'architecture' behind a painting-to-be, even if the end result is intended to convey an essentially diffuse effect”. Rice commences his every composition in a tried and tested manner which involves sketching the outline in graphite before administering any nuance of colouration, and using his sketchbook he will often prepare (or even complete) envisaged works in an impromptu fashion. Watercolour sketches also provide a priceless research tool back at the studio, in conjunction with any transparencies Rice has shot during his latest sojourn.
Reiterating his unabashed passion for Italy, and especially Venice which he returns to on a regular basis, Rice talks at length about the integral role that light plays in his every piece, and how that above and beyond anything else he’s drawn to the brightest light in a painting and how conversely it gives way to the deepest of shadows. To his creative mind this spectrum of contrast in a watercolour based reveal imparts an element of strength and vivaciousness and therein satisfies the eye.
Exhibiting his work extensively throughout the UK, Rice’s back catalogue has been snapped up by both corporate and international clients over the years, and limited edition silkscreen prints of his work are routinely discovered in London and New York galleries. Enjoying a burgeoning patronage, many of Rice’s recent solo shows have resulted in sell outs and in 2002 he exhibited in Japan for the first time, with galleries in Tokyo and Nagoya staging Rice’s then work. In 2006 Rice’s debut book, ‘Venice, Sunlight and Water’ published by Halsgrove, and which comprised of in excess of 120 full page colour reproductions, which sold out within 12 months. Only latterly in 2013, Rice released a 2-hour DVD, entitled; ‘Painting the Light – With Cecil Rice’ in collaboration with Town House Films.