Charles Thomas Bale was one of the most prolific and sought-after painters of still-life paintings of the late 19th century. Born around 1849, not much is known of the early life of Charles Thomas Bale until he exhibited at both the Royal Academy and the Society of British Artist in Suffolk Street in 1872. Bale was an extremely prolific artist, producing hundreds of still life paintings, which depict various combinations of fruit, flowers, birds, game, sliver and earthen jars. Grapes were a speciality of Bale’s, which feature in many of his works often in combinations with various other fruits.
Bale's still-lives are infused with an Arcadian atmosphere evoking fairytales, with visions of plenty infused within the composition of paintings. The fruit within his paintings have a symbolic depth beyond the aesthetic arrangement of form and colour. Bale in his work harks back to the moralising spirit of the 17th Century Dutch masters, presenting ideas of morality and decay. The autumnal leaves that lay beneath bunches of unblemished grapes and apples are standard in Bale’s repertoire, as if plucked at the height of their perfection, very symbolic of the transience of life. Furthermore, the presence of apples just past their prime, pocked and scabbed with marks of age, would have been very significant to Bale's Biblically moralising 19th century audience. Indeed, the unruly reds of over-rippened apples evoke original sin, whereby the viewer is reminded of the dangers of unchecked passions through the story of Eve picking the apple of Eden.
Bale’s work is often compared with artists such as George Lance and William Duffield. Bale’s paintings seem to have almost entirely remained in private collections, possibly due to their domestic scale and aesthetic contents. Some of his works however can be seen at the Hepworth Wakefield or the Lancaster Martine Museum. Bale's works are still striking and powerful today, evoking both the beauty of his subjects and also providing interesting insights into the morals and views of late Victorian society through acute symbolism.