Today sees the start of an exhibition at the Wycombe Arts Centre entitled “Around Here, Now & Then”.

This highlights the work of the well-known Wycombe artist Lorna Cassidy, supported by other local artists.

It is therefore an opportune time to consider on the Nostalgia page local artists from the past.

We begin with Alfred Steer, who has often been described as ‘Wycombe’s Very Own Portrait Painter’. He was born on April 3 1805, the third son of William and Rachel Steers.

As a young man, it was recognised that he had a special gift in the art of masculine portraiture. Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769 – 1830), a leading English portrait painter and President of the Royal Academy, saw one of Steer’s portraits and offered to send him to Paris for training.

But he refused, preferring to continue to follow what was termed ‘his Bohemian lifestyle’, and remain in Wycombe.

He remained a bachelor all his life, and lived in humble quarters in Frogmoor, his studio being a loft at the back of his brother’s (who was a carpenter/builder) premises, approached by a ‘rickety ladder’. It was said that he painted hundreds of local people, but all were men, and many landscapes of local scenes.

About 1869 he received a commission from Viscountess Beaconsfield, wife of Benjamin Disraeli, who wished to have her husband’s portrait painted.

But on seeing the final result she would not accept the portrait and refused to pay Steers his fee! When asked why? She said ‘’Well Steers, to tell you the truth you haven’t got the ‘’Devil in his eyes’’! (Disraeli was well-known for this distinguishing characteristic). Eventually the Steer’s painting was bought by the local circuit judge.

Many claimed that Steers’ finest work was his portrait of the first Robert Wheeler when he was aged about 70. Robert Wheeler was a brewer, founder of Wheeler’s bank in Wycombe, and several times Mayor.

Alfred Steers died in March 1877, his obituary in the Bucks Free Press stated “We record with much regret the death, on Wednesday last, of Mr Alfred Steers, an old inhabitant of this town, and an artist whose work is familiar to many beyond the immediate neighbourhood.

Mr Steers devoted himself more especially to portrait painting, in which he had a happy facility, as the walls of our Institute-room and many houses of the town testify; but his talents were not confined to that branch of his art, and he executed some very creditable landscapes, including many bits of Buckinghamshire scenery.

He had a genuine love for his vocation: and many will remember the enthusiasm with which he spoke upon all artistic matters and the shrewdness of his judgement thereon.” I would very much like to hear from any readers who have a Steers’ portrait or landscape painting in their possession.

The exhibition “Around Here, now & then” is at the Wycombe Arts Centre in Desborough Road, High Wycombe. It begins on Saturday and Sunday June 8/9 and other dates up to June 23.

For further information and opening times, go to the website