Artist biography

Stephen Bone was born in London, the son of the artist and etcher Sir Muirhead Bone (1876-1953). He lived in Italy from 1910 to 1912. Educated at Bedales School, he studied at the Slade School of Art from 1922 to 1924 under Henry Tonks, and in 1925 won a gold medal for wood engraving in the International Exhibition in Paris. That year he toured Spain with his father. After 1920 he also travelled to France, Greece and Scandinavia. In 1929 he married the painter Mary Adshead (1904-95), who had been a fellow student at the Slade School. They travelled extensively in Greece, Italy and the British Isles.

From 1920 Bone exhibited with the New English Art Club, becoming a member in 1932. In 1926 he held an exhibition with Robin Guthrie and Rodney Burn at the Goupil Gallery, London. He exhibited widely in the 1930s, showing landscapes and portraits with the Royal Academy, the Fine Art Society, the Lefevre Gallery, and the Redfern Gallery. A 1936 exhibition at Ryman's Galleries, Oxford contained oil paintings Bone had made of forty-one British counties. He painted and exhibited in Stockholm, Sweden in 1936 and 1937.

In addition to landscapes, Bone painted the occasional portrait (see, for example, Charles Aitken, exhibited 1932, Tate Gallery N04618). In 1925 his woodcuts illustrated the book Of the Western Isles by his mother, Lady Gertrude (née Dodd) Bone. In 1928 he painted a decoration for Piccadilly Circus Underground Station, which was later replaced by advertisements. In 1939 he published Albion: An Artist's Britain, illustrated with his landscapes. From 1936 to 1939 he served on the committee of the Artists' International Association, helping artist refugees from Germany to live and work in Britain. During the Second World War he served as a civilian camouflage officer, 1939-43, and as an Official War Artist attached to the Navy, 1943-5. In 1946 he published British Weather in the Collins' 'Britain in Pictures' series. He was art critic to the Manchester Guardian from 1948, and in the 1950s emerged as a broadcaster, frequently serving on the panel of the BBC radio programmes 'The Critics' and 'The Brains Trust', and on the long-running and very popular television programme 'Animal, Vegetable and Mineral'. He also contributed regularly to the Yorkshire Post, and to the Glasgow Herald as 'Luggage McLuggage', author of humorous travel articles. In the 1950s Bone and Adshead organised a mural painting course at Dartington. He wrote several children's books, including The Silly Snail, The Little Boy and his House and The Little Boy and his Boat, which were illustrated by his wife, sometimes with his collaboration. He was also the author of the Shell Guide to the West Coast of Scotland. In 1957 he was appointed the Director of Hornsey College of Art, but the appointment was cut short by his early death, in London.

Further reading:
Stephen Bone, Albion: An Artist's Britain, London 1939
Stephen Bone, exhibition card, Sally Hunter & Patrick Seale Fine Art, London 1986

Terry Riggs
November 1997