Friday, October 20, 2006

potted history

Without prejudice

A blog, however useful a medium to replace letter-writing and as a vehicle for parting with ideas, has come at just the wrong time for me. Let me explain why through a potted history.

I suppose from schooldays and before I have been a painter.

From the wartime years of flying in the RAF (obtaining my wings at the very end of the war) to recuperating from TB, to medical student, art student, theatre design student, and then on to designing in the theatre (given up as I was not gay or had influence), I now, at last, became a full-time painter.

After one-man exhibitions in London's Cork Street, Bond Street, Japan and elsewhere, with pieces of sculpture creeping into my shows to make my point, I was becoming, and became, a full-time sculptor - working in wood, sometimes very large pieces of it.

Then I broke my wrist in a car accident, could no longer sculpt, and turned to writing.

This I did for some 27 years writing over 700 articles for newpapers and magazines, and 14 books - on subjects as diverse as gardening, vine-growing and vinification, travel, the London Docks, cooking and wine, etc. In my computer (really word processor) is an on-going 250.000 words autobiography and a third (130.000 words) cookery book.

Now it so happens that I admire the paintings of Matthew Smith. I had a lovely example that went with my ex-wife. So I wanted another (wife and painting). A pastel came up for sale at Christie's salerooms. My new and lovely wife and I decided to go halves and put in a bid for it. A buyer paid four times more than our offer.

I was so upset that I decided to use pastel colour to create four tributes to Matthew Smith, using my own modest skills and Matthew Smith's favourite still-life objects. And to make sure they would never be mistaken for the genuine article, boldly writing on them "Homage to Matthew Smith". Because of this I had suddenly become a painter once more (after the break of 27 years).

Whereas as a writer I would have welcomed the blog and had time for it, I now have the taste for painting. And, as a man, I am really only able to concentrate on one thing at a time.

Already, in 2006, I have "painted" in pastel, eight A1 startlingly colourful geometric views of my garden. But I will add to the blog when I feel like it. And the cycle has come around once more to confirm that I really am a painter, with a two foot by four foot painting that I did on the spot of Chelsea Football Ground in 1954, coming up for sale at Christie's salerooms, South Kensington, on 7th December 2006 at 10.30 am. It is described in their catalogue as:

The Shed, Chelsea Football Ground
signed with initials 'P.R.' (lower right), signed again and inscribed 'NEIGHBOURS ON SATURDAYS/JAMES PAGE-ROBERTS (on a label attached to the reverse) and with studio stamp (on the reverse) oil on canvas laid down on board 24 x 48 in. (60.9 x 121.9 cm).
Painted in 1954.
London, New Burlington Galleries, Daily Express Young Artists' Exhibition, April - May 1955, as 'Neighbours on Saturdays'.

The present work was painted in the season which led to Chelsea's first major trophy success - the league championship. The early 1930s saw the construction of the southern part of the ground with a roof that covered around a fifth of the stand. This was eventually to be known as the "Shed End" - the home of Chelsea's most loyal and vocal supporters.

Page-Roberts, an artist who, among others, frequently exhibited at The Redfern Gallery and Leicester Galleries in the 1950s painted this work on the terraces.

Anthony Eyton, R.A. comments, 'This work is an historic document and a brilliantly conceived picture. An essential piece of Chelsea Football Club History' (private correspondence, 14th October 2006).