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Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Postcard from an artist




This week's photo prompt shows a group of people painting by the waterfront. 

 We have sometimes come across people painting 'en plein air' and I thought I might possibly have had a photograph somewhere that showed them in the background, but it seems not, so instead I've included this postcard that I found a couple of years ago at a store that was selling antiques, bric-a-brac and curiosities. On the front is a pen sketch by Leonardo da Vinci entitled "Study of flowing water".The original of this work is part of The Royal Collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.



What I am more interested in is the writer's note on the back, because the author is the well-known Australian painter Clifton Pugh, 1924-1990, writing from London to his friend Marie back in Arthur's Creek, Victoria Australia. She was the widow of a prominent Australian writer but I won't identify her further as she may still be with us, as is Pugh's third wife Judith. 



10.9.76

"Hello, some good news - the painting 
of Prince Phillip is going well. I'm
 painting in the grand Reception room of Windsor Castle. I did a
 portrait of Judith in the gilded
 air, and when Phillip saw it,
 it was the one he wanted 
so Judith is now "in the possession
 of", along with two landscapes
 of mine that he has had 
for some time. 
Love from us,
 Clifton"

I can picture Clifton sitting there with his easel and painting equipment in those grand surroundings. He had previously painted portraits of many famous Australians. It appears that HRH Prince Phillip did not keep the painting, as it is now held in the art gallery of Benalla, a Victorian country town a couple of hours north of Melbourne. Unfortunately there's no image online, and Benalla is a bit too far for me to go check it out specially, although next time we're passing that way I may stop for a look, and perhaps if it is on view, I might offer the postcard to the gallery.

You can read an article written by Judith Pugh about Clifton here  on the Australian National Portrait Gallery web site.  The piece is illustrated by a painting of Judith in 1976, which may well be the one referred to as being 'in the gilded air' by Clifton in his postcard to Marie.  Another portrait included with the piece is that of the late Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt, with whom, according to Judith, Clifton was to have gone skin diving on the day that Holt mysteriously disappeared. Pugh had cancelled the arrangement because it was his birthday and a birthday lunch was planned. In a blog last year I wrote about the mysterious death of Harold Holt on 17 December 1967.  If Clifton had not cancelled, perhaps the tragedy that unfolded that day might not have occurred.


 I've written previously  about my uncle Graeme Morrison and my distant cousin John Petrie who were both artists, and have also made mention of my grandmother Mona Forbes who attended art school in Christchurch NZ. Another distant cousin Charlotte Petrie studied at the Slade School of Art on London in the 1920s.  Here is an article about Miss Petrie's impressions of the Slade School, published after her return to NZ. We have one of her paintings.
Sunset on the Estuary at Invercargill, by Charlotte Petrie


 Below is the only photo I can offer of anyone actually painting at an easel, or in this case a blackboard. It shows one of our young sons and was taken back in 1984. Unfortunately I can't tell you that he went on to show any inherited artistic talent, but I'm sure he enjoyed himself at the time!


For more blogs about artists at work or at play, visit Sepia Saturday #356

Postscript: Years ago I did a photography class at a centre where a life drawing class was taking place at the same time, and we had to walk around the artists to get to the darkroom. Unfortunately we were not permitted to photograph the artists and their models as we passed by. I expect it was the models rather than the artists who didn't want to be photographed.
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