My Favourite Painting: Ameer Kotecha

Food writer Ameer Kotecha chooses a picture whose creator clearly loves food as much as the rest of us.

Ameer Kotecha on Market by James Fitton

‘For me, this depiction of a bustling market captures all the colour, energy and vibrant hubbub that defines markets around the world — and what I love most about them. For anyone trying to immerse themselves in a new country, markets are, I think, an essential introduction to a nation’s cultural identity.

‘I love the sparkling effect Fitton uses to show off the freshness of the fish and the variety of people: a man puffing on a pipe, a woman pushing a pram and a discerning lady in a hat. During the Second World War, Fitton produced posters for the Ministry of Food — including one advocating the importance of milk for growing children. Food seemed to be of endless interest and pleasure to him — as it is for me, and for so many of us.’

Ameer Kotecha is a British diplomat, pop-up chef and food writer. He is the author of The Platinum Jubilee Cookbook, available now.

Charlotte Mullins comments on Market

James Fitton was born in Oldham, Lancashire, in 1899 and studied alongside L. S. Lowry at Manchester School of Art. He moved to London, where he worked as an illustrator and art director at an advertising agency, only returning to painting in 1928. The following year, he took part in the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition and he was a regular exhibitor from then on, becoming a Royal Academician in 1954.

Fitton often painted busy market scenes such as this one, drawn to the characters that worked there and to the details of life he found fascinating — the baby in the pram, the shoppers inspecting produce, the flowers on the lady’s hat. In this painting, a couple of fishmongers ply their trade at a market stall. The man is getting ready to fillet the mackerel heaped in the centre of the table as the woman wraps a portion of winkles.

Fitton designed posters for London Transport during the day and his love of typography and lettering can be seen in Market. The butcher’s name is Morgan and it is liberally splashed across the shopfront. Fitton has used wax crayon to transfer the letters like a brass rubbing and gouache gives the scene a colourful feel, as smudges of black chalk dirty the awning and the road.

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This painting is part of the Government Art Collection, made up of nearly 15,000 works of art that are displayed across the world in embassies and consulates. Appropriately enough, this painting hangs in the Department for International Trade in the Old Admiralty Building on London’s Horse Guards.