Working intensely on the three paintings for Richard to take to the photographers in the morning.
After making various alterations to the catalogue on seeing the proofs we set out to London as today is my lovely Henrietta’s birthday.
Richard persuades me to let him hang the Presentation at the Temple Exhibition in Gloucester Cathedral as it was pretty late when we turned in last night and he feels I should be concentrating on my painting of St Francis which has to be photographed tomorrow morning, if I’m going to use it on the invitation card. He advises me that even staying up all night I won’t get it done if I go over to Gloucester and it will be quite cold in the Cloisters. Just as well as I do get phone calls and messages at home enquiring about what time R will be there until, for delivering the works. As anticipated I work through the night until Richard appears to take the painting to the photographers at 8 am but I still keep him waiting another 15 minutes. As I’d worked through I was fascinated to hear that on Radio 4 that Pope Francis and four of his cardinals are making a pilgrimage to Assisi to visit the tomb of St Francis the saint whom he has identified with and taken his name from....
.... but I’m even more astonished when Richard tells me on his return from the Cathedral where he has been putting up labels and artists statements, that he had met Bishop Michael and Alison there and that when he tells Bishop Michael that I have been up all night working on a painting of St Francis and the birds the Bishop asks if I knew that yesterday was St Francis’ day! They spent a long time looking at the paintings but Bishop Michael wondered if I could meet him over there to discuss and decide which would be the award winners. I’m unaware of all this until I rise in the afternoon so after attending the first part of the opening of the splendid new Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum or Wilson as it has been rebranded, we drive over to the Cathedral where Bishop Michael is waiting for me in the Cloisters. Its illuminating to discuss the entries with him. I am particularly thrilled as this is the first time I have see most of paintings apart from the photos that Richard took yesterday. Bishop Michael is very perceptive and although its very difficult because all the works have been executed with great sincerity, the winners soon become apparent. The Bishop had very much wanted Saint Anne to be in the picture as well as Simeon and there is one painting that incorporates everything that he had anticipated and more.
We drive back to the Museum in the hope that people won’t have noticed me creep out while Richard waited with the car on the yellow lines at the front. Now we have a better look round and even though we had seen it in an almost completed stage in July it looks even more stunning in use and is so well deserved. I’m very touched when Richard takes me to see the two donor boards thanking various funding bodies, trusts and individuals to see my name there - this glorious new building makes my humble contribution ( painting all those miniatures for my Christmas Open Studios over the last couple of years ) very worthwhile. We bump into lots of friends including Stephen the vice chancellor of the University of Gloucestershire who asks if we are going to look at the University organised Illustration Awards in one of the Literature Festival's marquees. So once again we leave a little before we would have as its so important to support the University too.
Working on pieces for the exhibition that missed the catalogue by being too late!
Richard’s been cooking blinis and preparing the canapés for the opening at the Cathedral this evening. The weather is beautiful as we sit out in the garden for brunch. We arrive at the Cathedral about 5.15 - luckily the table has been left on which to lay out all the glasses that Richard has on loan from Waitrose, the wine and the canapés. A couple of the artists and then Bishop Michael’s are the first to arrive but the cloisters quickly fill up with people. Am delighted to see Dame Janet, the Lord Lieutenant there and even more so when she decides she is going to use one of the images on her Christmas card too. The highlight of the evening is when Bishop Michael takes us all along with him as he talks about each work individually with great perception and sensitivity. It is apparent that he had spent a lot of time studying each and I think this is probably his fourth time of looking at them. Its very exciting as still not possible to tell which he has decided to select for the artists or the audience. A beautiful theme the artists have read and researched the text well; it is apparent from what he say that certain things are of importance to him, including the presence of Anne as well as Simeon. It is with great excitement that he begins to announce with our three joint third prizes first which went to Nikki Seville for her wonderfully unique multi media collage and stitch; Sheila Bryant who has created a superbly powerful composition, the largest in the show; and Linda Sutton who has a tender work on paper with Gloucester Cathedral in the background with the silhouettes of Simeon and Anne and two beautiful white doves in the foreground - I am delighted that Dame Janet has decided to use this as an image on her Christmas card. Chris Griffin’s receives the second for his exquisite water-colour which Bishop Michael particularly liked as it had one of the Cathedral's windows behind the holy group. Touchingly the Bishop said he would approach Chris about buying this little work for himself. And then he homed in on the winner, Kim Hill’s beautiful painting with the Holy family Anne, and Simeon with her own little church at Stoke Orchard in the background. Kim is obviously surprised and delighted, especially when Bishop Michael comments on the snowdrops that in the Church are called Candlemas Bells. When she says she hadn’t been aware of this when she included them, someone comments “it must have been divine intervention”. I’m so pleased that Bishop Michael, all the artists and guests look very happy and he comments on what a good evening it has been and I have a beautiful bunch of pink lilies that he presented me with - I tell everyone that I will share them with Richard as he has done so much to help me.
An added bonus was that I had invited a director of the Great British Card Company who is interested in using images of the five prize-winners works on charity cards in 2014!
Phone message from the Cathedral’s press office wanting more details of the Presentation at the Temple exhibition to send to the Citizen.
Speak to Ben at the Press Office
Call from Martin Bailey to say that he’s appearing at the International Literature Festival tomorrow - would Richard and I like tickets and to join them and for a quick lunch afterwards.
Richard persuades me that I have too much work to finish to be able to go to Martin’s talk, which is shame but I’m very fortunate as Richard who does go fills me in on all that happens. When he arrives Alison spots him from the Writers Room - Martin’s just done the sound check and he’s waiting to go on. So R benefits from all the VIP treatment the writers get which includes white leather sofas and a running buffet. He and Alison take their reserved seats in the front row of the enormous marquee with staged seating, a large stage and a very big screen onto which the team of technicians project the images. Martin holds his audience spellbound by the revelations and history that he tells about Vincent and this sequence of sunflower paintings that he thinks would not have been created had the artists’ models turned up or the weather been better to enable him to paint outside. A brilliant writer, Martin also has an amazing capacity to uncover facts, photos and objects that have been hidden from the public gaze.
Meanwhile I’m here trying to finish paintings, particularly tops, bottoms and sides for Richard to take up to the Alpha Gallery tomorrow.
Whilst Richard is delivering these, I’m endeavouring to complete other pieces for R to take up to London tomorrow. Apart from tops, bottoms and sides, each canvas or wooden panel has to come out of its frame so that I can continue the painting over the white gessoed edge that the frame has concealed since its conception.
Whilst R’s is yet again transporting to the gallery, I’m working on the Fairground, the Meal and the Horse the Angel and the Dove....
...which I continue to do until....
.....9 am when Richard sets off for London again!
Payment from Rob for painting sold at the recent Art Fair.
Now concluding two or three of the paintings which I didn’t manage to complete in time for the catalogue.
I notice that Rupert (manager at the Alpha Gallery) has tweeted that my football painting sells at Christie’s for over the estimate - he says “..secondary market price continues to grow..” He also e mailed to say he’d just sold a painting to a new client - from the other side of the globe.
Sadly we drive to the crematorium for the funeral service of Richard Smith, a brilliant man who had been secretary of the Friends of Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum for the first three or four years of my Presidency. A man of great intellect who’d got a top first at Cambridge in maths, he spent his career at GCHQ and took early retirement at the age of fifty. Nevertheless Richard seemed to work every bit as hard for his community through his work for Cheltenham AG&M; the Holst Birthplace Trust of which he’d recently been co-opted a Trustee; the Music Festival and the local History Society etc. Even with all this he and his delightful wife Catriona still attended concerts and exhibitions not only here but in London and other parts of the country too. In fact whenever one met them they seemed to either have recently been to or just returned from an event as on the day he died, aged 61, when they had just come back from an opera in London and a visit to the William Morris Museum. Thus the crematorium chapel was so full that we‘re among the large number who are standing. The most regular comment from everyone was that he was a good man and in Michael Storms letter of condolence to Catriona he had quoted Thomas Hardy’s line “..he was a good man who did good things.” He was very helpful to me and it was always a joy to see him and Catriona who even found time to come to my charity Open Studios to support.
Working hard on the four pieces that Richard will take up tomorrow. He’s already been to the photographers this morning before I am up!
It’s 6 am when I go to bed, having finished those paintings.
Return to the small circular paintings using the frames that Isabelle Bacon very kindly collected for me from Paris earlier in the year which are all beautiful and in natural untreated wood. I’ve never been able to find them here.
R arrives back early evening
The small circular paintings absorb all my energies
Hear from Isabelle who is in Paris at the moment, that last time she was there she returned to the beautiful old fashioned shop on the left bank and was disappointed to find that it had closed for ever. Although nearby shop owners had come to her rescue and given her the name and number of the lady who used to own it, she got no response. She’s going to try again this trip.
Little circular paintings nearing completion but it still takes me most of the night to complete and varnish them ready for
....Richard who drives them to London early, arriving even before Rupert, the gallery manager is in time to see Sally, (whose horse Special Tiara is going to be running in Ireland at the weekend), she has come for a pre preview. Rupert e mails me that evening to say that she has settled upon ‘Oh the joys of motherhood’, a small family interior, densely populated with parents, children, animals, toys, and vacuum cleaner! Round about the same time, whilst we are in Cheltenham, (Richard having been back by 3), we receive another e mail from David Rogers, enquiring as to whether ‘The Meal’ is still available. David, who set up the Wychwood Festival’s, wife Julie commissioned a newspaper work for his birthday a few years ago and in the meantime they also acquired ‘Playing for Time’, a large autobiographical interior. Within an hour Julie has replied to say they would definitely like it.
Up to London for the private view. When I arrive there are already people in the gallery including John, a new collector who tells me how much he likes ‘The Race’, a smaller corrugated work full of horses and jockeys in coloured silks making a semi abstract composition which has a feeling of movement as you walk past it. Whilst we are discussing this work he turns to Rupert and says he would like it and he’s also interested in the Fairground but its not until he’s leaving to attend a grand charity dinner at Kensington Palace with the Duchess of Cambridge that he says he’s leaving having purchased more than I think, not only has he added The Fairground but also the Table Talk lithograph. I am so touched to meet at last the Doctors Shamey - Karmel who is Egyptian and spent his childhood in Cairo a delightful man and his lovely wife Margaret. They tell me they had come up from Yorkshire with The Fox in mind but they have already been pipped to the post by Michael and Anne from Philadelphia who have purchased that and the study for the doorway after Michael who was here researching Vaughan Williams - a very learned man saw them in my studio. The Doctors Shamey tell me they have just bought my Night Fishers which comprises of more painted ( heavy timber ) frame than painted panel. My friend dear Beverley who has travelled up from Cheltenham, decides upon The Florentine as a present for her beautiful son Tom. The small circular Pussycat and Owl has gone to the Lowndes who have my ‘Small Hare of Gott Bay’ from last year’s show. The French head of a bank buys the corrugated “Reading on the Move”. There are so many dear friends and collectors that one of them comments on how full the gallery is a such an early stage! We remember to get Martin Bailey to sign another copy of his new book “The Sunflowers are Mine” who is there with his wife Alison Editor of the Orient Express. Nathan arrives with a group of pals in time to see Sheila my great friend from student days. He also meets my cousin Lynn and her husband Gerry for the first time. Later Henrietta and friends turn up to. Vic and Suzy Coppersmith Heaven who we haven't seen for some time have joined us, Suzy owns the 12 Sahara fashion shops and Vic used to produce Black Sabbath etc. At the end of the evening we end up at the pub round the corner having a drink with Henrietta & Nathan and their friends on the pavement such fun! Then it’s the long drive home.
Chill out and catch up with correspondence.
Up to town again for informal P.V. Greeted by Rick & Jo Rumrell who have flown in this Morning from St. Augustine USA with their friends not just to see the exhibition but also the American Football match at Wembley on Sunday. They have very kindly invited us and given us two of the very expensive tickets that also include dinner in the box. I explain that it might be difficult to get there in time as Robert Fripp and Toyah are taking us to lunch with Cressida Connelly and Charles who we are collecting en route.
We are so pleased to see beautiful Ruth and manage to chat before the gallery begins to fill again with my dear sister Gill and Karen Howell’s daughter who have just been for lunch at an Italian restaurant. Gill is looking a lot better although does have a weep when she meets our cousin Rita who arrives shortly after with Raymond. Carol Holt the fantastic teacher from Leicestershire whose whole class of 7 year olds wrote me the most beautiful illustrated letters in response to my painting ‘The Whale’ which the school had on loan from Leicestershire Museum services is here with her husband and daughter Amy a lawyer who like Ruth lives in Stoke Newington. Sue and Andy from Bourton appear - they are also attending a grand dinner at the RAF Club later in the evening; always great company they add fun to the afternoon. Touched as they have a red dot put on “On the Ball” for her sister Natalie who is keen on football. Likewise Karen is having the “Small Painted Boat on a Small Painted Sea” for her husband Ken's Birthday; coincidentally Carol had just decided to have this painting when a red spot appeared so ended up with an “Angel , Tiger and Dove“ wood engraving. Afterwards we go to Starbucks for coffee cake and sandwiches with dear Wallace and discuss the exhibition.
Call at Wyck Manor and are greeted by two lively little Jack Russells and Charles, who invites us in to their gloriously warm kitchen with its large white Aga and sun streaming in through the window. Cressida appears shortly afterwards and we set off for Robert and Toyah’s. Cressida and I chat about our children. As we drive through the arch into Robert and Toyah’s garden, Robert appears with his wonderfully warm greeting. Its interesting to be back in their kitchen surrounded by paintings, many of which are mine. Robert pours us each a glass of chilled champagne and takes us up to their stunning salon via the stair well which is full of my paintings and he very generously comments “you can see you are at the centre of our lives”. The salon is panelled in a calming green with older paintings, and late C19th Louis XIV style gilt furniture. Cressida comments that the magnificent gold painted and upholstered day bed looks like a Klimt painting. Robert takes Charles down to see the newly renovated basement which has become his magnificent library whilst Cressida, Toyah, Richard and I chat as we sip our champagne. Before too long we’re off to Bideford, Charles directing us, being a native of these parts, so we arrive before the Fripp’s. The swollen river runs right beside The Bridge restaurant which Toyah tells us she opened a few years ago as it is run and belongs to a friend of hers. The food is very good. Robert and I both end up having the salmon fish cakes as our starters and sea bass as the main course, others had pear and goats cheese starters; R had the mushroom risotto and a green salad. All followed by very exotic sweets; (I go for the three flavoured sorbets), teas and coffees. The conversation is always exciting, hearing about various adventures past and present that included many famous names including a story that Cressida’s mother had told her about a chambermaid who had worked in the same hotel as she where Elizabeth Taylor was staying; she had gone down to dinner and the chambermaid who was turning the bed spotted the lovely dress hanging on the outside of the wardrobe. The young woman overcome by its beauty took it down and held it up against herself in front of the mirror at which moment Liz Taylor having forgotten something, returned to the room and seeing the maid she “oh that looks beautiful on you, you must have it” which seemed to be such a generous gesture from someone who was a superstar. Cressida also told us other stories of her generosity. Its almost dusk when we leave the restaurant as our booking had been for 2 pm. and this morning the clocks went back one hour to Greenwich Meantime. As we drop Cressida and Charles at Wyck Manor she decides there is just enough light to walk the dogs. A lovely afternoon in such good company and we wonder as we drive back home how the American Football game is progressing at Wembley and whether Sue and Andy were able to go.
Today received e mails first from Rick saying they quite understood why we couldn’t go to the American Football game and how they enjoyed the company of Sue and Andy who were very warm people. Then later one from Sue and Andy who said they are so pleased that they went as it was fantastic experience and Sue has taken lots of photographs, one of which they attached which looked quite spectacular. We’re so pleased that they all seem to have had a brilliant time.
Should have gone to the Arts & Heritage Group meeting at 5 but made my apologies as I think I have a cold and could use the time to write the answers to Katie Jarvis’ interview for Cotswold Life.
I definitely have a cold which is such a shame as Henrietta Kev and the boys were coming on their way back from Devon to stay overnight. But since I don’t want to inflict it on them I phone to warn them off!
Not a lot of progress in the studio
Oh dear, we were supposed to be going to Helen Brown’s leaving party in Cheltenham but I can’t bring myself to take this virus along too so Richard drops an orchid and a card in for her. We’ll really miss her at the Museum as she was the Keeper of Collections and had a wealth of knowledge in so many directions. I’m sure she’ll be hard to replace.
Its All Hallows but only a single girl visits us and takes away two packets of ghouli confectionary!