She’s known as ‘The Face of Modern British Impressionism,’ with 2020 seeing her celebrating four decades at the forefront of her field.
Angela Sara West talks to the UK’s leading modern Impressionist, Sherree Valentine Daines, about her passion for painting, capturing famous faces and high-society events on canvas, collaborating with Bollinger Champagne, recreating Royal Ascot in her quintessentially English garden, and her royal and celebrity commissions, which have seen her paint portraits of A-listers, nobility, and Her Majesty The Queen.
Summer, sunshine, and high society. From the glamour of Royal Ascot’s and Goodwood Revival’s races, and impeccably-dressed socialites at the Henley Regatta, to live portraits of famous faces and the sun-kissed memories of our childhoods, the wonderful works of Sherree Valentine Daines flawlessly captivate timelessness.
Both the critic’s choice and the people’s choice, British artist Sherree’s exquisite creations prove phenomenally popular with art buyers all around the world, and she also boasts high-profile awards aplenty. A familiar face on TV screens, she has appeared in programs ranging from famous interior designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen’s ‘To the Manor Bowen’ on Living TV and multi-award-winning lifestyle show ‘This Morning,’ to documentaries such as Channel 4’s ‘How The Rich Get Hitched,’ seeing the celebrated artist paint a £75,000 commission of a society bride during the glamorous goings-on at Knightsbridge bespoke wedding boutique, Caroline Castigliano, the internationally-renowned designer of luxury designer bridal gowns and wedding dresses.
Unparalleled portrait painter, figurative and royal artist, Sherree’s second-to-none skills have seen her become a firm favorite with many a celebrity collector, including the British Royal Family. She’s also been the subject of a 10-page feature in ‘Hello! Magazine’, during the week of her Cheltenham Gold Cup exhibition, and has been featured in luxury titles galore, such as ‘Tatler,’ ‘Country Life,’ and ‘The English Home Magazine.’
Exhibited at prolific prestigious venues, including London’s Tate Gallery, the Barbican, the Royal Society of British Artists, and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, the unmatched modern Impressionist’s oil-painted masterpieces, magnificent pure bronze statues, and other delightful works are also displayed in the Lord’s Museum, the Royal Watercolour Society, the Laing Art Gallery, the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours, and the New English Art Club, alongside being held in countless private collections worldwide.
How does it feel to have been officially voted the UK’s leading modern Impressionist?
It’s very kind that people selected me, and I’m very grateful for this honor.
As a portrait artist to the Royal Family, how was your experience of painting an intimate double portrait of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in Windsor’s Home Park for Her Majesty’s 90th birthday gift?
It was a great honor to be commissioned to paint for the Queen’s 90th birthday, and very special to present the portrait to Her Majesty personally at a private reception at Windsor Castle. It was lovely to paint Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the Queen’s favorite horse, Carltonlima Emma, too. I also painted Dame Vera Lynn for her 100th birthday celebration, and feel very lucky to have met such amazing, wonderful, inspiring ladies.
Painting a commemorative 100th birthday portrait of “The Forces’ Sweetheart” Dame Vera Lynn in aid of her children’s charity must have been particularly poignant.
Yes, Dame Vera was very special, mostly as my parents were with me and they sang together. My father was in the Fleet Air Arm in the 2nd World War and saw Dame Vera at the Kit Kat Club in London during the war.
We celebrated VJ Day (celebrating 75 years of peace since WW2) on 15th August this year with my parents. My dad was in the Pacific when Ceasefire was declared in Japan (Victory in Japan), and we have a special photo of Dad with the plane he flew in as Rear Gunner in the Sword Fish for the Fleet Air Arm.
You’ve not only visited the Queen at Windsor Castle but also at Buckingham Palace for another birthday tea party, while last year saw you appointed Artist in Residence to Cunard’s Three Queens, the prestigious ocean liners Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria, and Queen Mary 2.
Yes, and I have been onboard Cunard to paint the Commodore of the Fleet and Captains of the Cunard and had a fantastic experience demonstrating the painting process, with huge audiences.
You’ve also painted portraits of numerous names in show business and famous faces from the world of sport, including Sir Michael Parkinson, Fern Britton, Jon Culshaw, John Sessions, Anna Chancellor, David Ireland, Claire Sweeney, Penny Smith, legendary British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, rugby stars Martin Johnson and Jonny Wilkinson, along with Lord Sebastian Coe. And you’re now planning the portrait of a former Prime Minister, Sir John Major.
I am fascinated by meeting people who have overcome huge odds and hearing their stories. Often, sportsmen and sportswomen have great tales to tell. I admire the determination of so many people from varied walks of life. I thought it very funny when asking Sir Michael Parkinson about his most memorable guest, who was Muhammed Ali, and about their little verbal spat, and on returning to the dressing room, his father said, “Son, you should have punched him…” (in jest, of course!).
You’ve also painted a portrait of much-loved celebrity chef Rick Stein in an exclusive live-painting demonstration at a ‘money-can’t-buy’ charity auction in aid of the Cornwall Air Ambulance, attended by Paralympian Stephanie Millward and sponsored by Champagne Bollinger, Ferrari Maranello, and Comotti Boats UK & Caribbean.
Yes, the event raised over £70,000, and the highlight was painting Rick Stein, who also has strong ties to Cornwall. I then presented the portrait to Rick as a gift.
Alongside your original paintings and limited editions, you have also released a beautiful, highly-illustrated fine art hardback book, ‘Your Days, My Days’ (now in its second edition), dedicated to your life and work, as well as a series of stunning bronze sculptures, which have become highly-desirable collectors’ items…
I know my work is in several private collections. I don’t always know who buys them, though!
You have a long-standing relationship with Royal Ascot and released your ‘A Day at the Races’ collection, a heartfelt tribute to the beauty, heritage, and pageantry of one of your favorite social occasions, a few years ago, along with a pair of pure bronze sculptures of horses which were previewed at the high-society event. With so many of these highly-anticipated occasions in the social season’s calendar sadly canceled this year, how have you have still been involved with them?
I painted live on Instagram to celebrate the Virtual Chelsea Flower Show 2020, and went live for Royal Ascot week, too. I love the incredibly-vibrant colors and scenes from both events. It’s everything from the scenery to the clothes that people are wearing. They’re such happy scenes, and it’s a pleasure to capture them. This year was very different, so I re-imagined both events in my garden! Two of my daughters – Fliss and Bunty – were my models, whether that was picking flowers in the garden or dressing up in full Royal Ascot regalia!
You were commissioned by Champagne Bollinger a few years ago to create a tribute to Royal Ascot, with your painting becoming the centerpiece of their 2016 campaign. How were your visit to the Bollinger Champagne house and vineyards in the charming French town of Ay, which Bollinger then invited you to?
Mark and I were invited for a long weekend in north-eastern France, and it was truly inspirational to see the house that Madame Bollinger lived in. It’s beautifully traditional. I don’t think it has changed at all over the years. They’ve kept it as true today as it was when she was alive. We had amazing dinners there and were tasting different Champagnes, with some dating back hundreds of years, so we were spoilt. We had a tour of the cellars and heard the stories of the 2nd World War and how they had hidden part of the cellar to keep it safe. Truly fascinating.
You’re hugely inspired by the French Impressionists and Stanhope Forbes – which other artists have influenced your style?
I love the freshness of Sir Alfred James Munnings (one of England’s finest painters of horses), Walter Sickert, Augustus John, The Newlyn School, Michelangelo Caravaggio, Pierre Bonnard, Edgar Degas, John Singer Sargent, and the Scottish Impressionists as well as the French. The list is vast!
Do any contemporary artists inspire you? Any emerging talent we should look out for?
If you go to any art schools and see the talent emerging, it is very inspiring. I am also really excited by my children – Bunty (Rowbotham), Felicity (Rowbotham), and Charlie (Rowbotham) – who are now professional artists.
Does our home county of Surrey serve as a source of inspiration for your amazing artwork?
Surrey has been a huge source of inspiration for my painting. Before children, I would paint at least five days a week in the Surrey Hills en Plein air, alongside running a small, weekly life class. We are a very close family, and we walk and cycle all over the stunning Surrey Hills. I mainly walk a lot on beautiful Box Hill. Walks across the fields and the lanes nearby with our wonderful dog, Celery, make you appreciate what’s on our doorstep even more. Places like Ranmore and Leith Hill. I so enjoy walking the lovely Surrey Hills. All have wonderful viewpoints, and I particularly enjoy the fact that I can get a cup of tea and cakes at each beauty spot! My parents are also local, and they love Newlands Corner – again, a wonderful viewpoint with a great café with delightful staff as well! I’m so lucky that we live in such a beautiful part of the countryside here in Mickleham.
Do you have any favorite art galleries?
We enjoy visiting the galleries in London, especially when there is an artist we admire. The last one-man-show was Joaquín Sorolla at The Royal Academy of Arts, in the heart of London.
So, your work is exhibited in selected galleries in London’s affluent Mayfair and all across the UK. And it’s available in high-end boutique sister galleries Clarendon Fine Art and Whitewall Galleries here in Surrey.
That’s right. I attend the Clarendon exhibitions, and when asked to paint for charity events, I usually paint a portrait, sometimes a celebrity sitter, or a subject that relates to the charity. At the end of the event, the painting is auctioned to the audience for fundraising.
Tell me a little about the star-studded gala event at the Royal Horticultural Halls in London to raise funds for the Born Free Foundation (www.bornfree.org.uk), seeing you paint in front of a live audience of co-founders Virginia McKenna OBE and Will Travers OBE, celebrity patrons, and special guests, including Joanna Lumley OBE, Martin Clunes, Rula Lenska, Lily Travers, Ruth Wilson, Katie Cleary, Lauren St John, Simon Cowell’s ex-girlfriend Jackie St Clair, and classical soprano sensation Margaret Keys… I understand you painted an amazing picture of an elephant in just half an hour!
I have been a fan of Born Free for nearly 30 years. The work that Virginia, Will, and the team do for the survival of threatened species, their efforts to protect animals against cruelty, and the kindness they have shown is a real inspiration to me. I’m so proud to be able to support their work. I always have an open-ended relationship with the foundation, and whenever they have events, I will always paint live so that we can auction it off.
The Born Free Foundation boasts bountiful famous trustees and patrons, including Jenny Seagrove, Mollie King, Nicky Campbell OBE, Nick Knowles, Dan Richardson, James Lewis, and Helen Worth, and the famous 1966 ‘Born Free’ movie, starring Virginia McKenna and late husband Bill Travers as Joy and George Adamson, a real-life couple who raised orphaned lion cub, Elsa the Lioness, to adulthood before releasing her into the wilderness of Kenya, has been described by President Obama as “the most influential film of his youth.” You and Lettice graced the red carpet as glamorous guests of Virginia McKenna at The Odeon in London’s Tottenham Court Road for Virginia’s return to the big screen in 2016.
Yes, it was for the premiere of British heist movie ‘Golden Years’, made 50 years after the ‘Born Free’ movie, with an all-star cast, including Simon Callow, Alun Armstrong, Sue Johnston, Bernard Hill, Una Stubbs, Ellen Thomas, Brad Moore, Phil Davis, and Mark Williams, alongside Virginia and her granddaughter, model-turned-actress Lily Travers.
You’ve also painted live for a charity auction at Box Hill School in Mickleham, in aid of restoration work at nearby FSC Juniper Hall, a beautiful 17th-century manor house for field studies, with a Victorian ice house, butterfly garden, and lawns, and for The Not Forgotten Association, a British Armed Forces charity, whose Patron is HRH Princess Royal, Princess Anne…
That’s right. The event was presented by ‘Homes Under The Hammer’ and ‘I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!’ star Martin Roberts, and the evening saw a supporting lecture from Colonel Piers Storie-Pugh OBE.
And you recently raised over £20,000 at the NHS Rainbow Charity Auction in aid of the Royal Surrey Hospital, for which both you and your husband donated pieces…
Yes, I donated a £25,000 painting in aid of the National Health Service to help fight COVID-19. The auction was run by famous Ewbank’s Auctioneers. We have collaborated with a large range of local charities. This week was for Cherry Trees, a week ago for a charity raising equipment for Epsom Hospital; the week before, I gave an image to a charity for injured service members to do a puzzle, and also recently donated to a charity called Navy Wings. It is so varied, and I can never turn a request down. I’m asked regularly and am happy to help all the charities that ask me.
You’ve always been an active member of your local community, supporting charities, and working for the promotion of the arts. For the last few years, you’ve been a patron of Surrey’s Mole Valley Arts Alive Festival.
That’s right, and I’m also a supporter of halow in Guildford, which helps young adults with special needs to be involved in a social life, which is often very difficult for them, and to empower creative spirits.
Perfectly blending beautifully-dappled scenery with high-end events in the social calendar, which opulent Surrey occasions do you enjoy capturing on canvas?
I love to capture local village fêtes, county shows, boating on the river, local cricket matches. I’m currently painting a canvas for Dorking Rugby Club for fundraising.
You live very close to the stunning Denbies vineyard. Does Denbies inspire you?
Denbies is a favorite place to visit. For the café, restaurant, to cycle and walk, and to shop. I have painted the vineyard, too. It is beautiful and a great asset to our area.
Any other favorite Surrey spots for sketching or setting up your easel for a stipple?
I have painted all over Surrey, often at Polesden Lacey. I drive around and find a spot to stop and set up my paints. Abinger Hammer is very picturesque to paint, especially when the cricket is on. I often have my paints to hand and always a sketchbook.
You paint a lot of idyllic summer childhood scenes. Are these captivating collections inspired by your childhood in the county?
Every season has something special for me. I love the changes throughout the year and feel lucky that we experience the seasons in the UK. I had a happy childhood in Surrey and didn’t think you have to step very far from home to find something to paint; things that remind me of my childhood, my mother’s vegetable patch, her hanging out the washing, picnics. Just life as it is.
So, you’re a very close family and also a very creative family.
That’s right! My husband is a fabulous painter and beautiful colorist, my son, Charlie, paints lots of lovely cafés and street scenes, while my eldest daughter, Lettice, trained as a classical violinist, performing and writing her music. She reached the final of ITV’s “Britain’s Got Talent” a few years ago and has played for Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace. Bunty is a sculptress and paints, too, and our youngest, Felicity, who has just graduated in Fine Art, is also a sculptress and painter.
And you were all living together during the lockdown, during which Lettice gave birth to a baby daughter called Peaches (nicknamed ‘Pebbles’). Did this time together inspire you?
Yes, the lockdown was great fun with 10 of us, including our three grandchildren! Our days consisted of family time together. My perfect day is in the garden digging, planting, and playing games in the evening after enjoying a family supper. We got through vast amounts of food, and two of our sons-in-law, Tom Howe and Joe Morris, are professional rugby players, so my husband had them digging up the garden for training. It was a pleased and joyous time with the young and grandchildren around. And with all the lovely weather, much time was spent in the garden. Luckily, we had a paddling pool out! I also enjoyed painting the garden and our vegetable plot, and plan to do more time-lapse videos of me working on site.
Your beautiful 17th-century rectory house and garden offer such a stunning setting for your work. Tell me a little about what you love about your property and how your historic home serves as a source of inspiration to you.
It is a very well-built house, and we think about maintaining the property for posterity, as it has some lovely features as well as a happy atmosphere.
How would you describe your home studio?
I use one of the bedrooms which face south and west, so ‘very bright!’
Have any famous faces visited your stunning home for a sitting?
I have had a few famous sitters at home, although I usually visit them to paint as most are very busy, so I try to make life as easy as possible. Virginia McKenna, whose portrait I have painted, lives in Surrey, and I do so admire her and the work that the Born Free Foundation does – she’s a lovely and amazing lady.
Is there anyone you would particularly love to paint?
Hollywood actors Sir Patrick Stewart and Dame Maggie Smith. I would also love to have painted Marlon Brando. What a strong, beautiful face.
When it’s time to put down the paintbrush and palette for a painting break, how do you like to relax at home?
I love eating, walking, cycling, dancing, and talking, but most of all, being with the young, the grandchildren, and my elderly parents, who live nearby.
And where do you like to head for a holiday?
I am not greatly traveled, as life is so full just with family and work, but I am just as happy at home or holidaying in the UK, in places like Cornwall.
Where inspires you overseas? Any incredibly beautiful places you love to capture on canvas?
I adore France. I love their way of life and people. They have everything! From the Riviera to the beautiful mountains, rivers, and lakes, such lovely, varied landscapes to paint. And the light, particularly in the south, is spectacular. We visit friends’ properties in France and are particularly inspired when staying at one in Sainte-Maxime on the Côte d’Azur, with views across the bay to St. Tropez. We’ve frequently stayed there and also with friends who own a beautiful townhouse in Monflanquin, a gorgeous medieval town in the Lot-et-Garonne in south-western France. We also have a very good friend who owns a castle-style villa in Mallorca, Spain. I particularly love and am inspired by the island’s capital, Palma.
And I understand you and Lettice were reunited with ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ judge, singer and actress Amanda Holden during a trip to Monaco a few years ago, where you also met Prince Albert of Monaco?
That’s right! That was a fantastic evening, again raising money for the Born Free Foundation. Amanda is such fun, and so open and down-to-earth. It was a real treat, and we had a great time for a great cause.
What artwork can we look forward to from you, which will be launching across Clarendon and Whitewall Galleries over the coming months?
Works from my garden over the last few months will feature, and I have been doing many portraits. I had an exhibition booked at the estate of Lord Spencer (the younger brother of Diana, Princess of Wales) in September, but this is postponed for now.
Finally, how are you celebrating 40 years as the nation’s foremost modern Impressionist, and your life in art?
By trying to paint even better and work more from life, with people sitting for me and painting in the landscape. I am enjoying going back to painting from life since lockdown, but I am sure my agent will have a few things up her sleeve for the near future!
Sherree’s originals, limited-edition prints, and sculptures are available from www.clarendonfineart.com and www.whitewallgalleries.com, where you can also find out more about her and her work, along with her upcoming exhibitions. For further information, visit Sherree’s website: www.sherreevalentinedaines.com.
© Angela Sara West 2020 www.angelasarawest.com