Alexander Creswell is one of Britain’s most successful living representational artists. He has emerged from the great tradition of watercolorists, and has doggedly pursued the time-honored values of integrity, artistry, and painterly quality now often eschewed by the modern art establishment. Despite his reverence to the past, the result is not old fashioned or retardataire. Creswell’s technique is a rare combination of traditional values and a fresh contemporary approach to the application—and in some cases removal—of color. By layering his pigments and then literally scratching deeply into the paper, Creswell daringly “sculpts” his compositions, thus enhancing the magical quality of the light and giving each view the spontaneous feeling of a fleeting moment.
Moving away from the traditional “easel” painting to monumentally scaled works on paper has been Creswell’s main focus and challenge during the past few years. The greatest change in Creswell’s technical accomplishments over the years has been facilitated by the recent availability of rolls of watercolor paper 60 inches wide by 120 feet long, enabling him to custom-size works to fit his subjects. (The largest sheet of commercially available watercolor paper prior to 2006 was 30 x 22 inches).) Due to the nature of these larger works of art, he has developed an entirely new working process, assisted, in part, by a custom hydraulic easel and a self-designed palette fashioned from an autopsy table. Creswell has never previously exhibited works of this scale in public, as most have been private commissions.
In 2014, after a conversation with a collector who lamented his lack of wall space as a hindrance to enlarging his collection, Creswell achieved a first—both in watercolor and for contemporary art. He created a monumental ceiling painting in watercolor. A view through an imaginary roof to an infinite sky, this work relies less on his previous representational execution of architecture and space than on invention and adaptation.
Perhaps best known internationally for his watercolors of Windsor Castle, a series commissioned by The Royal Collection, Creswell has been long associated with the Royal Family and HRH The Prince of Wales and has traveled, on several occasions, with HRH The Prince of Wales as his official artist. Indeed much of Creswell’s previous work has been in the milieu of “artist-traveler,” the role explored by watercolorists for over 250 years, which includes the great names of J. M. W. Turner, David Roberts, Edward Lear, and John Singer Sargent—all of whom have influenced Creswell in some capacity.
Although watercolor has often been considered an inferior medium when compared to oil painting, Creswell's works break the boundaries of convention and enter a new world of watercolor painting as installation. “A huge watercolor in a small room is a theatrical experience, a virtual reality far from the confines of mere topographical representation,” explains Creswell. This is what drives him to pursue larger and larger works, depicting and exploring architecture on a new scale. Views seen from a distance are now comprised of scenic vignettes rather than mere touches of paint, and glimpses through arches and across piazzas become smaller worlds unto themselves.
Creswell’s work has been internationally lauded, and acquired by institutions and public collections including The Parliamentary Art Collection, London (6 works); Westminster Abbey, London (21 works); The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (6 works); The Frick Collection, New York (2 works); The Forbes Collection, New York (9 works), and others. The Royal Collection, HM Queen Elizabeth owns 27 works by Creswell, and HRH The Prince of Wales owns 7 works by him.
In addition to five solo exhibitions with Hirschl & Adler, New York since 2000, Creswell has had solo exhibitions in London at Windsor Castle; The Portland Gallery, John Martin, and Spink-Leger/Spink & Son, and others. He has participated in public exhibitions at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London; The Holburne Museum of Art, Bath; The Forbes Collection, New York; The Arnot Art Museum, Elmira, New York, and others.
Creswell has also received numerous notable commissions: The Royal Family, the Marriage of HRH the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge; The Royal Family, the Diamond Jubilee; Duchess of Northumberland, Alnwick Castle Gardens Project; HM The Queen, Lying in State of HM The Queen Mother; House of Lords, Lying in State of HM The Queen Mother; The Royal Collection, Windsor Castle (after the fire of 1992 and again once restored); Coutts Bank, 100th Birthday Gift to HM The Queen Mother; The Prince of Wales’s Institute of Architecture; Duchy of Cornwall; The Parliamentary Art Collection, Westminster; English Heritage; HSBC Bank Middle East; Royal Bank of Scotland; The British School at Rome; The London Capital Club; the British Broadcasting Corporation; Ineos Group; among numerous others including several for stately homes in the UK, several for a 99-metre superyacht, one for a private plane, and numerous works for American private collections.