By now a familiar name in the cannon of British contemporary silversmithing, Graham Stewart's pieces are not only recognisable by their references to the natural world and their beautiful flowing lines, but also for their charm. Join Head of Jewellery & Silver, Scotland, Ruth Davis, as she takes a closer look at the life and work of Graham Stewart.
Originally from Bridge of Allan in Stirlingshire, Graham was educated at Dollar Academy before attending Grays School of Art in Aberdeenshire. His early inspiration came from his father, who initially trained as an optical instrument maker, but later taught evening classes in silversmithing after attending the same classes himself for a number of years, Graham sat in on some of these early classes.
One of his most prestigious commissions was for the Scottish Parliament, the Honours of Scotland sculpture which sits in the main hall of the parliament building is arguably one of the most viewed pieces of contemporary silver in Britain toady. Like many of his pieces, it invokes the history and heritage of not only the craft, but in this case the Scottish nation, and also the simple flowing lines for which he is so known. Claret Jugs and bowls were a particular favourite of his to make, he once commented ‘Claret jugs are lovely to make … you can express a lot with a jug – generosity, a convivial gathering – they are such an expressive thing.’
Graham was also a great lover of poetry and words, something that he found expression for in his work and which makes his pieces instantly recognisable. This bowl, sold in August 2021, is a good example of this, the way the engraved lettering snakes around the inside of the bowl encourages the reader to pick up the piece, and handle it as they turn it to read the words, engaging with the object as they do the message. It reads, May the road rise with you, May the wind be always at your back, May the sun shine warm upon your face, The rain fall soft upon fields, and, Until we meet again may God keep you in the hollow of his hand. It is a smaller version of the Golden Jubilee Bowl, commissioned by the Caledonian Club in London to present to the HM The Queen on the occasion of her golden jubilee.
Perhaps found less regularly at auction are examples of his jewellery, and the small collection we are offering in our Auction on the 8th December are good examples of his work. Drawing their inspiration obviously from nature while their simplicity of design makes them striking pieces.
Sadly, Graham passed away in 2020 at the age of 65. Always a strong supporter of the silversmiths and jewellers craft in Scotland, he made arrangements for the contents of his workshop, including tools, equipment, books and portfolios of drawings to be gifted to The Scottish Goldsmiths Trust to use for educational purposes and to support future generations; a worthy legacy for one of Scotland’s foremost contemporary craftsmen.
Lyon & Turnbull’s Silver & Objects of Vertu department currently hold three specialist sales a year both through our main saleroom in Edinburgh and via live online auctions. Our specialists’ knowledge and experience of the current market has proved an essential combination for the successful sales of English and Continental silver from the 16th to 20th centuries often by makers such as Paul de Lamerie, Paul Storr, Faberge, Robert Garrad and Stuart Devlin.
Spanning over 500 years of design and craftsmanship, our specialist Silver auctions offer fine tableware, centrepieces, candelabra and flatware alongside fine object of vertu including Russian enamel, gold boxes, card and cigarette cases.
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