Stephen Bone

Charles Aitken

exhibited 1932

Not on display

Stephen Bone 1904–1958
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 610 × 508 mm
Presented by Sir Robert and Lady Witt through the Art Fund 1932


Bone was known primarily as a landscape painter, although he did occasionally paint portraits. Charles Aitken (1869-1936) was the third Keeper of the Tate Gallery from 1911, and the gallery's first Director, from 1917 to 1930. Prior to taking up his post at the Tate, he had been Director of the Whitechapel Art Gallery since its opening in 1901. This portrait was presented to the Tate by the art collectors Sir Robert and Lady Witt in recognition of Aitken's Directorship.

Among Aitken's notable achievements as Director was the acquisition in 1918 of some of William Blake's Divine Comedy drawings and other works, leading to the establishment of an impressive collection of works by the artist. The beginning of a collection of modern works was also undertaken during his Directorship. As a later Keeper, Ronald Alley, has written, however, Aitken 'appears to have taken virtually no interest in the more innovating tendencies which followed after van Gogh and Neo-Impressionism' (Ronald Alley, Catalogue of The Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art, London 1981, p.ix). Aitken was Director also during the disastrous flood of 6-7 January 1928, when the Thames overflowed the Embankment walls and flooded the Gallery.

A contemporary critic, referring to this painting, remarked that 'Mr. Bone has a nice sense of colour; he paints in a light key and ... with good but academician-like taste ... however, the too light tone of the sitter's right hand indicates the source of the artist's principal failing; his inability to keep his design concentrated' (Apollo, vol.15, no.87, March 1932, p.141).

Further reading:
Design and Art: Arts League of Service, London 1928, pp.23-5
Stephen Bone, exhibition card, Sally Hunter & Patrick Seale Fine Art, London 1986

Terry Riggs
November 1997

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Catalogue entry

N04618 CHARLES AITKEN c. 1932
Inscr. ‘Stephen Bone’ b.l.
Canvas, 24×20 (61×51).
Presented by Sir Robert and Lady Witt through the National Art-Collections Fund 1932.
Exh: Lefevre Gallery, March 1932 (6).

Charles Aitken (1869–1936) was the third Keeper of the Tate Gallery from 1911, and the first Director 1917–30.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I

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