It might be a copy, but it’s a vast and very clever copy … and one which had been forgotten for over four decades.
Geoff Roberts was a 25 year old graphic designer at the time that his father Bill asked him to paint a mural on the sitting room wall of their (now) Soha Housing home in Gainsborough Hill, Henley on Thames. Bill had a particular fondness for a Dutch painting which he hoped his son could replicate. A former Royal Navy serviceman who became a painter and decorator when he returned to civilian life, Mr Roberts senior knew what a complicated task he was asking Geoff to undertake.
Geoff showed off the galleon to best effect by painting a mirror image of the original. Covering all of one wall, the mural took him a year to complete. The colours are faded now, but Geoff explains that some elements of the ship were originally painted gold. The tenants who took over the Gainsborough Hill house when the Roberts family moved on within a few years covered the mural with wallpaper. It was only when the house became empty in March this year, and works were started to restore it to tip-top condition for new residents, that the mural was uncovered.
While the wall has to be prepared for the next letting, Geoff is pleased that his artistic talent will not be destroyed: Soha will erect a stud partition wall over the mural before replastering. In years to come, Geoff’s work can be rediscovered all over again!