By Alex Matthews
A retired decorator who found inspiration in car boot art books has turned his council house into a renaissance work of art.
Robert Burns, 69, has spent the past 14 years painting every inch of his three-bedroom home in the style of a 15th Century palace.
He has recreated the works of the world’s most famous artists – including Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo – in the property in Brighton, Sussex
While millions of tourists flock to Italy and the Vatican each year to view the originals, retired decorator Robert starting giving a few tours of his home.
Unlike the medieval masterpieces, however, Robert’s works are dotted with contemporary celebrities including Jamie Oliver, Russell Brand and Wayne Rooney.
The granddad admits he is pleased with his efforts, but admits he himself might be a little more famous had he been born around 600 years ago.
He said: “If I’d have been born in the Renaissance era and been able to paint like this, I might have been able to create something truly special.
“I even sometimes wish I’d discovered this latent talent when I was 20. Life as an artist would have been great fun.
“But I only started trying to paint like this in my mid-50s.
“To be honest the first attempt I made was completely wrong, but the second painting I did was a lot better and it just grew from there.
“I’ve really had great fun coming up with ideas and inspiration for each piece of the house and completing the work.
“I have no more space now so I’ve had to move onto painting on canvases.
“I have about 40 of those stored away at the moment and others hanging around the house. Storing them all is becoming a real problem.
“But I really enjoy doing it and it keeps me busy, so I don’t think I’m going to stop anytime soon.
“People who come to the door have always been taken aback by it. It’s really not what people expect to see, and they are often quite amazed.
“I’ve had a couple of groups ring me up and ask me if they can come and see it. I’ve been happy to open my door to them and let them take a look around.”
Robert began his project after buying a tourist guide to the Vatican City at a car boot sale in Lewes, Sussex, in 2003.
He purchased the guide, which had a retail value of over £10, for just £2, and it sparked his interest in Renaissance art.
He has since proceeded to buy an entire bookshelf’s worth of books on the period from other sales and charity shops, and has spent over a decade studying the art and the history.
Going through the books has become his main hobby when he is not painting.
Despite being inspired by the Italian masterpieces on the pages, he has still never visited the country himself to see them in real life.
He said: “I can’t remember exactly what it was that made me buy the book, but when I started looking through it at home I was instantly attracted to the paintings.
“I thought they looked magnificent and grand, and I was inspired to try it myself. It is an incredibly rich period.
“Since then I have been collecting as many books on the subject as I can, but I do only by them second hand. Fortunately there are plenty of car boots and charity shops here in Brighton.
“They have all inspired the pieces I have painted, or sometimes I have copied exactly what I have seen. I’ll happily spend a full working day painting them.
“I don’t really watch much TV, so when I’m not painting or going out I’ll be reading books about the Renaissance. I know more than most people about it, although I’m still not sure if I’d call myself an expert.
“I did painting celebrities into some of the works when I saw pictures of them in Renaissance poses.
“I’m probably most proud of Russell Brand with his crown of thorns. I wrote to him to tell hIm I’d done it, but funnily enough he never replied.”
Robert says his wife Linda was supportive after she saw his second effort, and told him he should continue.
In fact, she is invaluable to the project, casting her eye over Robert’s efforts and making sure he gets his perspectives correct.
He said: “I have a good eye for the style and can paint works pretty quickly now. A ceiling would take me a matter of weeks, depending on the size of course.
“But my wife is always there to spot any mistakes and make sure the perspective is right. She is very good at noticing the details.
“She encouraged me to keep going, so some of the blame for it certainly rests with her!”
Robert, who retired as a painter and decorator seven years ago, has spent less than£400 on acrylic paints over the 14-year period.