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Christopher Hall

Biography

Christopher was born on 25th December in Slaugham, Sussex. Shortly after his birth, his family moved to rural west Berkshire where he grew up except for a brief interruption during World War II when he and his family lived in Connecticut in the United States after his father, who worked for the diplomatic service, had been posted to Washington DC.

After their return from the U.S., Christopher was soon enrolled at Bedales and attended there between 1943 and 1949. It was there that he started to develop his interest and skill in art. The culture and learning environment helped develop his character and attitude, which would later serve him well in organising a busy life and career. It was during his time at Bedales that he painted his first oil on hardboard. It was also at Bedales that Christopher began his lifelong love of cricket.

After leaving Bedales, Christopher served in an army intelligence gathering unit in Malaya before enrolling at the Slade School of Art in London where he developed his style and subject preferences which he would use for the majority of his career. His style was realistic and detailed. As subject matter, he liked to paint landscapes or townscapes which quite often included people in the compositions. The locations of his landscape paintings were mainly European and included scenes from England, Italy, France, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. He depicted fields, meadows, woods and rural villages. In contrast to those idyllic rural scenes, Christopher would also paint old industrial towns and streets of neglected terraced housing. He often depicted groups of local people in these scenes. In a revue of an exhibition of Welsh paintings in the Eastern Daily Press in August 1966, the reporter said, ‘looking at his views of grey cottages and drab, almost pigmy people, one is tempted to say “Here is a Welsh Lowry”.’ Others have made this comparison, too, but Christopher’s people are much better fed than any of Lowry’s.

Returning to his life, during his summer breaks and early in his career, Christopher began to travel abroad to countries such as Ireland, the Netherlands and, in particular, Italy. It was in Italy, in a small hill town of Recanati, he first met his future wife, Maria, in 1954. He returned several times with friends, once in a car formerly owned by King Zog of Albania. Christopher and Maria were married in 1957 and, after their honeymoon, Christopher and Maria returned to England to live. In the years that followed, they had three sons: Anthony, Robert and Andrew born in 1958, 1961 and 1963 respectively.

To supplement his income Christopher began teaching art in a private school, only working on his art in his spare time and arranging for it to be shown in various exhibitions. He had his first solo show in the Arthur Jeffress Gallery in London in 1958 and subsequently had one most years. Interestingly in a “Young contemporaries” exhibition catalogue of 1955 among whose selection committee were Henry Moore and L.S. Lowry, Christopher was exhibiting along with his sister Sarah and friend Tom Cross and a certain Raymond Briggs.

Christopher and Maria lived in Aldermaston, Berkshire and then moved to Wash Common, Newbury. He soon became involved in local politics and was elected councillor in the early sixties at the forefront of a revival of the local liberal party, which with his help gradually increased their representation on the local council until they ran it in the early seventies. At 36, Christopher became the youngest mayor of Newbury in 1967/8 and the only mayor since Lucas Cranach to combine the role with being an artist. He had a wonderful time and said of his time as mayor to the Evening Post, “Being mayor has not interfered very much with my work. I have found the job very pleasurable. I do not find local government at all boring.”

Christopher had travelled extensively, but as his children grew and money had to go further, he had to reduce visits to Italy. Instead there were more trips to places in Britain, most of all Wales, mainly during school holidays. Christopher’s parents had moved to north Wales in 1964, so Christopher’s focus moved from overseas to slate towns, mountains and farms in Wales.

Over time, Christopher became busier and eventually had to give up teaching, and a few years later he also gave up the council. He continued to play an active role with the local Liberals, helping them maintain their strength and be competitive at general elections. In 1974 the liberals twice nearly won the seat, but probably the high spot of his political involvement was when he played an important role in getting David Rendel elected as the Liberal Democrat MP for Newbury in the 1992 by-election.

By the mid nineteen-eighties, Christopher and Maria’s children had left home, which allowed Christopher more time to focus on his painting. He and Maria travelled to new countries like Spain and Portugal. They even travelled beyond Europe to the United States, where their son, Andrew, had settled in the mid west and also visited an old friend, Richard Royston, in Chicago. All three trips had produced paintings. Anthony, a keen birdwatcher, persuaded his father to visit Costa Rica with him. In addition Christopher took Mediterranean cruises with Maria from which paintings of Tunisia and Malta resulted. There where even a number of pieces painted in Thailand when Christopher visited his son Anthony.

In recent years, due to ageing, Christopher’s artistic output slowed. In addition to this, he had to increasingly act as carer for Maria, which took time away from the easel, but despite this he still managed to do some work in his studio. With his son’s return to England, Christopher was planning to take a painting trip, but sadly on 4th August, he died from complication due to a fall and was not able to carry through his plans.

In his long career, Christopher painted nearly four thousand paintings of both country and urban scenes from many different countries around the world. His distinct style is easily recognisable and many had come to love and appreciate his work. His loss is not only a loss to his family but also to the art world and to many others that were touch by his life.

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