Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

December 11 2011

Tim Hetherington remembered by Idil Ibrahim

The Oscar-nominated film-maker and photojournalist was a noble, brilliant man who lived live to the full, writes his girlfriend, film-maker Idil Ibrahim

It is hard to believe just a few months ago, Tim and I were beaming with joy on the red carpet at the Oscars both in a state of awe. "Don't worry," Tim said, holding me closer after not winning his category for best documentary film, "I have my Oscar right here." These last few months have been a far cry from career highs and red carpet events and have been replaced by a whirlwind of honorary awards ceremonies, articles, and exhibitions in Tim's honour, all of which are very touching, but painful reminders of this new reality of a world without him.

Despite the fact that much of his work took him to risky places, Tim was no daredevil. He was very measured in his approach to work and always concerned for safety. He thought at worst he might get kidnapped just as his colleagues had months before. That's what we both thought. We never imagined death.

We met in late 2009 at a screening for a film I'd worked on as a producer, and we immediately connected as we both shared a passion for social issues. We started conversing and discovered that I'd seen some of his incredible footage from the Liberian civil war – I was incredulous and could not believe he'd filmed it. We shared an awkward laugh though the subject matter was far from comedic. We started as friends and started dating the following year. It was a beautiful romance. There is so much I miss, though I suppose I miss our shared laughter the most, far from any glitzy event or awards ceremony.

Tim was incredibly thoughtful. When travelling, he was always in constant contact through Skype, email or the photos he would send me from his iPhone. When he returned home to New York, where we both lived, he'd bring me gifts from around the world. Tim had a way of defying time and distance so that we never felt apart.

He was much more than a brilliant conflict photographer. He was an artist. He experimented with multimedia, wrote, and created provocative and gut-wrenching films such as Restrepo [an award-winning documentary about a US platoon in Afghanistan]. Incredibly well read, he was always thinking very creatively about different ways to approach his work.

He was tender and nurturing to those around him too. I remember a time when he was exhausted from weeks of travel for Restrepo and barely had time to eat or sleep. One day he had back-to-back interviews; however, he also promised to have a Skype call with a young photography student from Birmingham and agreed to participate in an interview for an online magazine. Tim worked his entire schedule so that he could fulfil both obligations.

I not only mourn the loss of Tim, but I mourn the loss of our future together. I mourn for the plans we had. I mourn for the children we will never have, the long list of places we will never visit together and the things we will never do. Although my heart is broken, I try to take some comfort in knowing that he was killed doing what he loved most, in a place he wanted to be.

Tim was incredibly honest, respectful and full of integrity. He believed in not compromising his ideals and in testing himself and his boundaries so that he could truly be free and live life to the fullest, and he encouraged me to do the same. He was by far the most brilliant person I have known. Tim's work is about trying to build bridges and understanding between people. In light of our current global social, political, environmental and economic climate, his death has caused me to pause and reflect on steps I can take to effect change in my own way, on any scale, to ease human suffering in the world. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Lucian Freud remembered by Sally Clarke

For 15 years, the great artist took breakfast and lunch at Sally Clarke's cafe-restaurant. Here, she recalls the man she fed… and eventually sat for

Mr Freud started coming to the little cafe at the back of my shop about 15 years ago. I didn't know it then, but he worked close by in a studio in Holland Park, so we were quite convenient for him. Soon after this, he bought a house a few doors along the street from us and from then on became more and more of a regular. He would come for breakfast and lunch often, bringing with him whoever he was working with at the time – Leigh Bowery, Kate Moss, David Hockney.

There came a time, however, when I realised that there was a risk that he might be bothered in the cafe, so I decided to offer him a table in the restaurant, which was empty at that time of day, and at the same time I could make sure that he was somewhat "wrapped in cotton wool". I should say that he never asked for this special treatment.

If David Dawson, his studio assistant and model, was with him, breakfast tended to be centred around a pile of newspapers – but he would be perfectly happy by himself. What he ate for breakfast with us changed over the years, but it was Earl Grey tea in the beginning with milk and a huge pain aux raisins – the size of a saucer – which he devoured easily. As the years went on, he graduated to coffee, a sort of latte which we called a Mr Freud latte, being even milkier than normal.

Often, he would invite me to join him and David – I loved watching him enjoy the little Portuguese custard tarts that we make. He had a very sweet tooth. Sometimes, he would consume a whole bar of our homemade nougat – at breakfast time! Occasionally, I'd make him scrambled eggs with toast; at weekends, he would come in for brunch.

For lunch, he would always choose fish – whichever fish was on the menu. He was very interested in food and I think he was a good cook himself. He loved game and I remember one day Brigadier Parker Bowles brought him some partridge from the weekend shoot and he threw them straight into the oven and ate them the following day.

The first time we spoke properly was soon after he had moved house. He came to the restaurant one afternoon and asked to see me. He told me that he was having problems with his neighbours and wanted some planning permission advice. I'm not sure why he asked me, but what struck me more than anything, aside from just how charming, polite and lovely he was, was his German accent. It was dramatic – very guttural and individual.

I sat for him for three works. For the first painting, David Dawson asked to see me alone at my restaurant one morning. "Lucian is wondering if you would like to sit for him." This came as an enormous shock, but a few months later I was sitting in one of the most famous chairs in the world, looking through tall, wide French windows, into and over buddleia, bamboo hedges, a fig tree and bay trees. I had somehow imagined the house to be filled with music, but other than an abundance of sweet-smelling flowers, the house was filled with silence, concentration, thinking and looking – intent looking.

Within a short time, I learned the signals he gave; his hand moved to the top of his head equalled "move the top of your head over a fraction". His hand sweeping in front like an elegant tennis forehand meant "adjust the angle of your head very slightly". It was about detail, detail, detail. For such fine work, of face, hair or eyelid, the brush size seemed huge and yet the strokes on the canvas were light, delicate and few.

I had planned to spend my "sitting" time writing future menus in my head, checking my diary or making "to do" lists during the rest periods, but I soon realised that I was wishing to work as hard, and as intensely, as he was. This was a partnership: one giving and the other taking, but that taking was also giving – giving his all, and in return for the sitter's giving, a most special, unique and privileged experience was received.

The painting was finished three years ago, and very soon after this I sat for what was to be an etching, but he decided to keep drawing and drawing on the plate instead, so it was never etched. Then he started on another head and shoulder painting on canvas, which was about half finished, I think, when we stopped working, only a few weeks before his death.

Of course I miss him. I got very used to seeing him every day. Arriving in the morning, I would often walk past the restaurant and see him through the window, already sitting having breakfast and he would wave with his arms high above his head. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

November 27 2011

Eve King obituary

My mother, Eve King, who has died aged 95, was a widely respected art historian who taught and lectured at the University of London, the National Gallery, the Tate and the Victoria and Albert Museum. She gave a successful series of talks for Radio 3's Painting of the Month strand in the 1960s and opened up new worlds of art for her many students.

Eve's thinking about art was passionate and incisive, stimulating enthusiasm. She campaigned tirelessly for her favourite painters, including JMW Turner, and was a prime mover in the creation of the Turner Society in 1975.

Born Eve Davies, she had an art-loving father who was a city accountant, and an energetic, business-like mother. Eve went to Commonweal Lodge, a school in Purley, south London. In 1938, she became one of the first women to achieve an MA in art history from the Courtauld.

Eve married Alec Hyatt King in 1943, after they had met hill-walking. She was at the Board of Trade while he worked at Bletchley Park. Alec enjoyed a distinguished career in the British Library, heading the music department and publishing widely on music. Eve was a tower of strength for him, typing and editing his articles and books.

She was a fine and supportive mother and, once her children were old enough, she resumed her professional career teaching art history. She lectured and travelled widely for the National Association of Decorative and Fine Art Societies, whose foundation she helped to stimulate, and was a founder council member of the Friends of the Royal Academy.

Friendly and forthright, Eve believed in courtesy, honesty and integrity. She enjoyed a long retirement in Southwold, Suffolk, where she was an active member of the community, involved in the Women's Institute, the Red Cross and the Southwold Decorative and Fine Art Society among many other organisations. Her life showed what can be achieved with hard work, application and a first-class mind.

Alec died in 1995. Eve is survived by me and my brother, David; her sister, Joyce; three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

November 11 2011

Theadora Van Runkle obituary

Self-taught costume designer who dressed Beatty and Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde

Theadora Van Runkle was almost 40 and broke, a commercial illustrator drawing fashion ads for the May Department Stores Company to support her children, when she met the movie costume designer Dorothy Jeakins at a party in Los Angeles in 1966. Jeakins had been in the business a long time by then (from Joan of Arc to The Sound of Music), but she was no sketch artist, and she hired Van Runkle on the spot to do that task for the glum epic Hawaii. The engagement lasted barely a month. As payback, Jeakins later called to say: "I've just been asked to do a little western over at Warner Bros" – she couldn't do it because of conflicting schedules – "and I recommended you."

Van Runkle, who has died of lung cancer aged 83, panicked. She had no design training, but she had learned to construct clothes through cutting and sewing from Vogue patterns, and since childhood had copied the fashions she could not afford. Another source of income seemed worth a risk. The film's director, Arthur Penn, who came from the improvisatory universe of television, wanted his "little western", Bonnie and Clyde, to feel like a French new-wave film. Nothing in it, and no one associated with it, could be old Hollywood, so Van Runkle joined the near-beginner production designer Dean Tavoularis to work on the film's look.

Van Runkle could really remember the garments of the rural poor in the early 1930s. She was born Dorothy Schweppe in Pittsburgh, the illegitimate child of a brief liaison between Courtney Schweppe, scion of the fizzy-drinks family, and Eltsey Adair, who then raised the child alone on the wrong and dusty side of the tracks in California. Warren Beatty, the film's bankable glamour, vetoed Van Runkle's initial designs for Bonnie and Clyde as too accurate to the actual images of the bank robbers, all sock suspenders and Mary Jane shoes. However, he needed her expertise enough to confront the president of the Costume Designers Guild (Van Runkle was not a member) to get her cleared for the project.

She confessed to Beatty that she had no idea what she was doing and, as she shopped for textile samples in Beverly Hills, she met the multi-Oscared Edith Head and told her the general line: "It's the 30s and they're escaping from a bank robbery." "Oh, darling, do everything in chiffon – you'll have no problems," Head advised. Van Runkle tried less sheer ideas: Beatty's Clyde would be a dandy, with the Arrow high-collar shirts, waistcoats and ivory fedora once favoured by Pretty Boy Floyd; Faye Dunaway's Bonnie would wear attitudinous berets, humble dresses bias-cut for cling, and no underwear. Dunaway had to be sweet-talked into so low-key an image, but in the end balked only at the proposed brogues.

Money stretched no further than custom-made ensembles for the principals, with rented costumes thoroughly drubbed by Van Runkle for the rest of the cast. The final astute fusion of Texas 1932 and Paris Left Bank 1967 won her an Oscar nomination and lasting fashion respect. After the film's release, traditional French beret production escalated, while the young Karl Lagerfeld at the Chloé label went on reworking Bonnie's cardigan way into the 1970s.

Not being an industry pro, Van Runkle had to rely on personal contacts to get hired, the most immediate being Dunaway, a picky dresser who trusted her enough to design an offscreen wardrobe as well as onscreen costumes for Vittorio De Sica's Amanti (A Place for Lovers, 1968), Elia Kazan's The Arrangement (1969) and Norman Jewison's The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), a parade of extreme fashion that has not aged well, especially Dunaway's micro-minis over pale sheer tights: she seems both over- and under-done. Yet Steve McQueen's gear for that film, which Van Runkle commissioned and edited rather than created, remains timeless – McQueen hadn't previously aspired to serious suits, and, she said, "It took him a while to get the fluid movement of someone who is not merely comfortable in, but demands, that sort of tailoring." He then wanted her for Bullitt (1968), in which she clad his cool cop in dark sweaters and a light mac adapted from the style of her own dapper boyfriend.

Her best creative partnership was with Tavoularis, who requested her for the complicated period juxtapositions in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather: Part II (1974), with its flashback narrative set in the first 25 years of the 20th century and its main story in 1958-59. He was sure of the accuracy of her archival work (Robert De Niro as Vito Corleone in pearl-buttoned spats on a family visit to Sicily in 1925, precise migrant chic) and instinctively trusted her with the newer stuff. Coppola was less certain of everything. The first scene shot was the opening, a Cosa Nostra family party at Lake Tahoe in 1958, for which she had put all the many men of the mafia clan into suits – about a mile of silver-grey mohair – and Al Pacino into gunmetal slub silk ,"very Italiany".

Coppola arrived, expecting – no, demanding – a lineup of tuxedos, but she countered that this was an afternoon event and that the Corleones were trying to pass for subfusc Wasps, so no tuxes (although the loser brother Fredo's doom is implicit in his bow tie). Coppola stormed, but soon conceded that her psychology was right, and her knowledge unarguable, and she picked up another Oscar nomination for the result. She enjoyed doing the research for the flashback era so much that she volunteered for Peter Bogdanovich's Nickelodeon (1976), about early movie-making: more Arrow collars and newsboy caps.

Van Runkle worked a last time with Tavoularis on Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), Oscar-nominated again, this time for time-travelling Kathleen Turner between her teens and her 40s, from the 1950s to the 1980s, more through interesting choice of novelty fabric than line. (She later advanced Bette Midler through changing prosperity over the decades in the 1990 film Stella, strictly through cut.) Van Runkle recalled Turner as diva-ish, but her benchmark of misery, despite the Bafta nomination she earned for it, remained Martin Scorsese's New York, New York (1977), on which chaos prevailed, and she had to sustain 1940s girdle continuity on Liza Minnelli, whose weight and shape fluctuated over the long shooting schedule. Despite the exaggeration of the concepts that Scorsese insisted on, the film's clothes avoided pastiche.

When required, Van Runkle could be an inspired pasticheur, using send-up for defence (Lucille Ball's overmodish hats in Mame, 1974; Dolly Parton's lingerie straps, of girder strength, in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, 1982) and offence (her sequence of fashion-victim get-ups smothering Shelley Long is the best joke of the cult movie Troop Beverly Hills, 1989.) Hers is the wickedest version of the Nicolas Cage trademark white singlet, in Kiss of Death (1995).

There was an Emmy for television designs, and the Costume Designers Guild not only welcomed her in but also gave her a career achievement award, in 2002, after she had abandoned design to return to painting.

She married Robert Van Runkle when she was 16, and upgraded Dorothy to Theadora. The marriage ended in divorce (as did a second, to the photographer Bruce McBroom), but she retained the names. Her children from her first marriage, Max and Felicity, survive her.

Theadora (Dorothy) Van Runkle, costume designer, born 27 March 1928; died 4 November 2011 © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

November 07 2011

Appreciation: Adrian Berg obituary

Brian Morley writes: Adrian Berg (obituary, 5 November) and I were exact contemporaries in the painting school at the Royal College of Art, part of an intake which offered a wide range of backgrounds, interests and aspirations. Adrian was one of the most interesting and entertaining students.

We were, I think, the first year to benefit from the programme of liberal studies introduced by Robin Darwin as part of his vision of the college as the art-school equivalent of Oxford and Cambridge. Liberal studies consisted largely of lectures and seminars given by visiting tutors from other disciplines. These were not universally popular with students. Adrian felt he had done all that and just wanted to get on with painting. When we were invited to read Aristotle's Poetics prior to a seminar discussion, Adrian argued and, as he put it, "made mincemeat of the tutor". As a result he gained the reputation of an arrogant bolshie intellectual and troublemaker. A witty and often dangerous opponent in any debate, he was always regarded with some suspicion by the painting tutors, and left the RCA with a 3rd class degree.

In 1961 he moved in to his studio/flat in Gloucester Gate and for the next 20 years or so rarely painted anything other than the view from his window. If Regent's Park through all seasons and moods appeared to some critics a narrow one, painting was for Adrian "a process which has to be repeated, comparing and correcting".

He had become increasingly frail in recent years and I saw him only infrequently, but whenever we did meet he was as engaging a conversationalist as ever. His love of gossip ensured a large fund of mischievous, and often scandalous, anecdotes about his contemporaries and other painters, which he clearly enjoyed as much as his audience. Many, like me, will cherish the memory of his characteristic bellow of laughter as his jokes concluded. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

October 24 2011

Barry Feinstein obituary

Photographer behind striking album covers for Bob Dylan, George Harrison and Janis Joplin

The American photographer Barry Feinstein, who has died aged 80, made his most famous series of images when he accompanied Bob Dylan and the Band on their controversial tour of Britain in 1966. On stage, Dylan was aloof to the point of imperious, a dandy in shades and a sharp suit, willing his new electric music on disgruntled audiences who wanted the familiar folk singer they knew and revered.

When Feinstein's fly-on-the-wall photographs of the tour finally appeared in his book Real Moments, published in 2008, Dylan emerged as an even more complex figure. Often he looks gaunt and fragile, his eyes hidden behind ever-present shades, his body hunched against the cold British winds and the imploring eyes of his faithful. One such image of Dylan waiting for the Aust ferry to take him across the Severn was used as the poster for No Direction Home, Martin Scorsese's epic 2005 documentary on Dylan.

Feinstein also captured Dylan away from the spotlight, in more relaxed mood: posing with a bunch of ragged children in Liverpool or talking to three bohemian Dublin girls, who look almost as hip as he does. "They were poets," the deadpan Feinstein wrote in his notes, "and he was quite taken with their poems."

Born in Philadelphia, Feinstein had no formal training in photography, but took to it instinctively after some casual snapshots he took while working at a racetrack in Atlantic City in 1955 revealed a gift for atmosphere and detail. That year, he was hired as a photographic assistant for Life magazine, and one of his first jobs was covering the Miss America pageant. Soon after, he headed west and landed a production assistant job at Columbia Pictures in Hollywood, taking photographs whenever and wherever he could. "I didn't want to photograph the glamour end of it," he said. "It was the 'behind the scene' thing that interested me – the part of Hollywood that nobody thinks about or looks at."

His breakthrough came after he befriended Steve McQueen and was commissioned to photograph him for Look magazine. The results were relaxed but revealing. Although he made formal portraits when he had to, his instinct was for the dramatic moment or the telling detail. He memorably accompanied Marlon Brando to a civil rights rally and captured the actor being jeered at by racist counter-demonstrators. When he was given access to Marilyn Monroe's room a few hours after her suicide, he photographed the bottle of pills by her bedside.

In 1958, Feinstein met Albert Grossman in a nightclub in Los Angeles and was immediately hired to photograph the fledgling manager's new act: a folk group called Peter, Paul and Mary. Soon after the shoot, Feinstein married the singer Mary Travers. It was Travers who took him to see the young Dylan at a coffee shop in New York's East Village. "I had to figure it out," Feinstein later said of his first encounter with Dylan's music. When Dylan looked at Feinstein's black and white pictures, he was immediately impressed, commenting on their "angles" and "stark atmosphere" which, he said, reminded him of the work of Robert Frank.

A 10-minute photoshoot with Dylan produced the intense portrait that became the cover of the singer's third album, The Times They Are a-Changin'. Shot from below, it is all angles and stark atmosphere. It was the first of several iconic record cover portraits by Feinstein. They include Pearl by Janis Joplin (the photo session happened the night before she died of a drug overdose), and All Things Must Pass by George Harrison, in which the ex-Beatle sits in his garden at Friar Park, Henley-on-Thames, surrounded by ornamental gnomes.

Occasionally, Feinstein courted controversy with his cover images. For Ike and Tina Turner's 1968 album, Outta Season, he provocatively posed the duo in whiteface, eating watermelons. His proposed image for the Rolling Stones' album Beggars Banquet – a shot of a public toilet covered in graffiti – was rejected by the group's record company, despite Keith Richard's testimony that it was "a real funky cover". Feinstein worked as a cameraman on the music festival documentary Monterey Pop (1968) and directed the cult hippy film You Are What You Eat (1968). In 1970, he and Tom Wilkes formed a graphic design company called Camouflage. Together, they created memorable album covers including GP by Gram Parsons, The Gilded Palace of Sin by the Flying Burrito Bros and Eric Clapton's eponymously titled debut solo album. Feinstein was reunited with Dylan and the Band when he was hired as the official photographer for their 1974 world tour. His shot of a vast sea of people holding aloft Zippos and lit scraps of paper graced the cover of the ensuing live album, Before the Flood.

Feinstein continued working as a photographer, doing travel shoots as well as rock portraits, into the early 1990s. In 1993, he was seriously injured in a road accident near his home in Woodstock; during his long convalescence, he began editing his archive. In 2008, a book of his early film star portraits was published, entitled Hollywood Foto-Rhetoric: The Lost Manuscript. It included a sequence of prose poems written by Dylan in the 1960s that were inspired by the photographs. They had languished in Feinstein's attic for more than 40 years. Feinstein had no creative control over the book's production, and was reputed to be less than pleased with the results.

The photographs of Dylan from 1966, collected in Real Moments, were exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London in 2009. "I wanted my pictures to say something," Feinstein wrote. "I don't really like stand-up portraits; there's nothing there, no life, no feeling. I was much more interested in capturing real moments."

Feinstein is survived by his third wife, Judith; by his daughter, Alicia (from his marriage to Travers); by his son, Alex (from his marriage to the actor Carol Wayne); and by three stepchildren and three grandchildren.

• Barry Feinstein, photographer, born 4 February 1931; died 20 October 2011 © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

October 16 2011

Ray Aghayan obituary

Award-winning costume designer who dressed Judy Garland and Diana Ross and oversaw the Oscar red carpet

Now that television talent contests are gussied up to Vegas standards, it's less easy to appreciate the discreet glamour that was the speciality of Ray Aghayan, who has died aged 83. But for 60 years, he guaranteed that difficult divas would arrive on screens and stages projecting perfection. Glamour was so much his habitat, he supervised over a dozen Oscar shows.

His initial diva, he remembered, was even more terrifying than Barbra Streisand: Princess Fawzia of Egypt, first wife of the last Shah of Iran, a woman of movie appearance and wilfulness. Aghayan came from an Armenian family in Tehran, and his widowed mother, Yasmine, designed clothes for the ruling Pahlavi family; the boy, starstruck by Hollywood, was certain he, too, could create, and the amused Fawzia summoned him via her ladies in waiting. She explained to him that she had to wear mourning dress, but didn't want to be extinguished by it. So he drew her "this big black tulle thing trimmed with droopy red ostrich feathers". It was sewn, defiantly worn, and after that no grand dame scared him.

His mother took his cinema passions seriously enough to send him to California to study. In Los Angeles, he dropped out of architecture and into acting, then: "I was directing a play and found we didn't have enough money to hire a designer. So I designed the costumes."

He went into television in the mid-50s, when most of its costuming was re-used from movie stock, or agency hires. NBC or CBS budgets for original commissions were reserved for big variety specials, and Aghayan was confident that whatever the level of luxe, he could supply it. It was steady work, culminating in 1963-64, when he costumed Judy Garland's regular shows. Edith Head had been commissioned, but exited, fast. Garland was trouble. But Aghayan was a fan ("If you can sing like that it doesn't matter how hard you are", he said), and her demands were minimal: she wanted to wear spike heels. As her legs were long and thin, Aghayan thought this was a great idea, and he was sure of the way she should look. "The lady was like the Statue of Liberty: you know what she wears." He defrumped Garland with slacks under over-blouses, simply cut but surface-decorated at $350 a time, to catch the light in monochrome. Garland wore them on her late tours, including the famous 1964 London Palladium gig.

Aghayan's success meant he needed assistance. It arrived at his door in the form of Bob Mackie, a young designer who sketched better than anyone and became Aghayan's professional and personal partner for life. They shared an aesthetic based on old Hollywood and burlesque – fearless with feathers and rhinestones, but lightened up and styled for wit. Sometimes as a duo, sometimes solo, they produced costumes for Diana Ross in her Supremes days, Dinah Shore, Julie Andrews and Carol Channing – the latter getting a Broadway gown with 80lb of crystal beading, its scarf so weighted that Channing, flinging it over her shoulder, damaged the scenery.

Aghayan never went as far into parody as Mackie, but he did enjoy pastiche in a short movie career, rebranding Doris Day in a mad mod mode for Caprice (1967). The terrible seriousness, and serious terribleness, of Doctor Doolittle (1967) put him off big films, although he and Mackie rallied to Ross and Streisand, picking up Oscar nominations for Lady Sings the Blues (1972) – the shoulder treatments of Ross's dresses amplifying her slight frame to more closely match Billie Holiday's broader form – and Streisand's Funny Lady (1975), the sequel to Funny Girl, a masterclass in bias cut. Aghayan alone had a nomination for Gaily, Gaily (1969), and among his Broadway productions was nominated for a Tony in 1970 for Applause, the musical of All About Eve: he draped rows of fringe from Lauren Bacall's loping frame, to dance in lieu of her feet.

Aghayan campaigned successfully for an Emmy category for costume, and he and Mackie shared the first award, in 1967, for a television movie of Alice Through the Looking Glass. The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences still assumed that nothing on the box was purpose-made, however, and a member asked Aghayan what he did that was worth recognition, stating: "You shop for clothes and you bring it in and you put on stars and they wear it." Aghayan replied: "I want you, tomorrow, to go to the May Company [a department store] and buy me, and bring here, the Red Queen's costume."

He and Mackie were aware that the studio workrooms of trained craft hands were closing in LA; New York was a long way to go to get 10,000 sequins applied at speed. So in 1968, along with Elizabeth Courtney, formerly of Columbia Pictures, they set up their own Californian atelier, later exporting its output to Broadway. Many showbiz customers also wanted unique dress-up ensembles, at a time when Paris couture was low on handworked glamour. So the duo obliged, a custom-making venture that turned into retail collections in the 1980s. Mackie had the wow factor, Aghayan supplied the subtle flattery. The Costume Designers Guild executive director, Rachael Stanley, said: "Whenever there was a problem trying to make something work, Ray could come in and take a look at it and say, 'Oh, the problem is ...'" The guild gave him a lifetime achievement award in 2008.

Aghayan was asked to advise on the televising of the Oscar shows from the late 1960s. He didn't have a veto over red-carpet choices, but up until the mid-1980s, when couture houses began to fight to place their designs on stars' backs, his recommendation was heeded. By his last Oscars, in 2001, he felt costume design – the dress as character or an extra asset on a charismatic performer – had been overtaken by fashion advertising.

He won an Emmy and several nominations for the Oscar shows, and designed the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1984 LA Olympics,  with 50 designs mass-produced into 11,000 outfits of white sportswear: happy, summery, the summation of his fantasy America.

Mackie survives him.

• Ray Aghayan, costume designer, born 28 July 1928; died 10 October 2011 © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

October 11 2011

Mikey Welsh obituary

Artist and former bass guitarist with the US band Weezer

The death of the former Weezer bass guitarist Mikey Welsh, whose body has been discovered in a Chicago hotel room following a suspected drug overdose, was predicted by Welsh himself. In a Twitter posting two weeks ago, he wrote: "Dreamt i died in chicago next weekend (heart attack in my sleep). need to write my will today." In a second message, he added: "Correction – the weekend after next." He was 40 years old.

Welsh joined the Los Angeles-based band Weezer in 1998 in the wake of the departure of their bassist Matt Sharp, though, due to various internal squabbles, the group did not resume active duty until 2000, when they reconvened to rehearse for a tour and write a batch of new songs. They had originally become popular with a mix of post-grunge metal, catchy pop hooks and geeky humour, as demonstrated in hits such as Undone (the Sweater Song) or Say It Ain't So.

They returned to the recording studio and made their third album, Weezer (2001), confusingly bearing the same title as their 1994 debut. The new disc became known as the Green Album, the first one having been unofficially dubbed the Blue Album, and spawned a couple of radio and MTV hits with Hash Pipe and Island in the Sun. It was the only Weezer album Welsh actually appeared on, though he can also be heard on the group's limited edition Christmas EP (reissued as Winter Weezerland in 2005).

Weezer went back on tour after the new album's release, but in August 2001 Welsh was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. It later emerged that he had suffered a serious nervous breakdown caused by drug use and the stresses of touring, and had attempted to take his own life.

In an interview with the website Rock Salt Plum, Welsh confessed that "basically, a lifetime of doing drugs and being undiagnosed as having ... post-traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder finally caught up with me when I was 30 years old. At the beginning of a three-month European tour with Weezer, I started slowly falling apart."

Weezer recruited Scott Shiner as Welsh's replacement. Welsh subsequently played a few dates with the Boston band the Kickovers, but then took a complete break from music, moved to Burlington, Vermont, and began a new career as a full-time visual artist. He mounted numerous exhibitions and enjoyed considerable critical acclaim for his work.

Welsh, who was born in Syracuse, New York, took his first creative steps as an artist when he was a teenager. He worked at first with watercolours and collage, and pursued his artistic bent until he decided to switch to music when he was 19. He played with a number of bands in the Boston area, including Heretix, Jocobono and Slower, and toured with the singer-songwriter Juliana Hatfield.

His connection with Weezer came about when he joined the Rivers Cuomo Band in 1997, this being a solo project by Weezer's frontman Rivers Cuomo. The band went through several different lineups as Cuomo experimented with new material, but Welsh remained a constant presence on bass. When Cuomo rejoined his Weezer cohorts, Pat Wilson and Brian Bell, to begin work on a new album, they agreed that Welsh should be recruited.

Welsh's post-Weezer career saw his life transformed in all respects. In 2003, he married Danielle, whom he had known for several years on the music circuit before he joined Weezer. "She played bass in this band and I always thought she was really beautiful," Welsh said. He became stepfather to her son Rye, and four years ago the couple had a son, Jack.

Welsh's art career seemed set on an upward trajectory. As well as exhibiting and selling individual works, he had won design commissions from Burton Farm snowboards and Gordini goggles, and he created an album cover for the band Twin Berlin.

At the time of his death, Welsh had been planning to attend Weezer's gig at the Riot Fest in Chicago. He is survived by Danielle, Rye and Jack.

• Michael Edward Welsh, musician and artist, born 20 April 1971; died 8 October 2011

• Mikey Welsh's website © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Anna Adams obituary

My friend Anna Adams, who has died aged 85, was a poet and artist. She was a writer of real talent who, although reasonably well published by small presses, has yet to receive her due from the wider poetic world.

She was born in London and went to Harrow Art School and Hornsey College of Art, where she met her husband Norman, who was to become a distinguished painter and keeper of the Royal Academy. Anna's own paintings were small, delicate watercolours of flowers and landscapes; she also made rather bolder ceramics of animals.

It was poetry, however, into which she poured her main creative energies. From the first, she swam against the tide in writing metrical rhyming poems of considerable dexterity (as she put it "a formalist rather than a free-verser"). She also distrusted the "confessional" school and, apart from a handful of poems composed after Norman's death in 2005, eschewed the personal statement.

Her main publisher was Peterloo, which brought out five collections between 1979 and 2004, but she also published a book of new and selected poems, Green Resistance, with Enitharmon in 1996. There were two prose, poetry and art compilations of real distinction in Island Chapters (1991) and Life on Limestone (1994). The former stems from the decade that she and her husband and their two small children spent on the island of Scarp in the Outer Hebrides. The latter is a reflection of upwards of 30 years living in a converted farmhouse in the Yorkshire Dales.

The poet Anne Stevenson has spoken of Anna's "chief virtues of immediacy and intelligence and keen sense of humour which make [her] popular among many readers". These qualities can be observed in this excerpt from one of the Island Chapters poems:

The Sabbath closes doors and hushes speech,

manacles hands, gyves feet, suppresses each

workaday wish for play, deserts the beach,

while people from the seashore houses wear

their Sundaybest expressions, oil their hair,

and walk in polished boots to meet for prayer.

Anna is survived by two sons, Ben and Jacob, and two grandchildren, Anjana and Ammar. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

October 02 2011

Vic Carless obituary

Marine artist whose work was loved by superyacht designers

The commercial artist Vic Carless, who has died aged 83, was known for his marine paintings and illustrations, and his posters and advertising work for the car and aviation industry from the 1950s onwards. He produced paintings of some of the world's most significant superyachts for publication in international magazines. Yacht designers including Terence Disdale, Tim Heywood and myself commissioned Vic. His paintings were key to winning many projects as they gave clients confidence, which turned the dream of a yacht into a commissioned building project.

Vic's superyacht paintings were commissioned for the earliest stages of design and he was often involved in concept design discussions. His work included commissions for some of the world's leading shipyards, including Royal Huisman and Oceanco in the Netherlands; Lürssen and Abeking & Rasmussen in Germany; Benetti in Italy and Oceanfast in Australia. His success was due to his ability to work quickly, his skill at reading the technical drawings of the design studios and translating our intentions into visual descriptions of the yachts and their surrounding landscapes. He did not have any art-school training, but always looked to mentors such as the commercial artist Frank Wootton for his "flicks of fluency" and understanding of composition and animation in his painting.

Vic was born in Walsall in the West Midlands. He left school at 15 to become an apprentice in a commercial art studio just after the second world war, when the car industry was beginning to expand. In the early 1950s he moved to London, where he was greatly influenced by Wootton, his colleague at Carlton Studios, who had an extraordinary level of adaptability to commercial markets. Vic worked for the motor companies Hillman, Humber, Triumph, Sunbeam, MG, Austin and Morris. He also produced artwork for posters and brochures for motorcycles such as Royal Enfield and Norton and aircraft for Hawker Siddeley, and illustrations for the packaging of many Frog aircraft model kits.

Vic returned to the Midlands in 1956, initially working for Osman Webb and then setting up his own studio in Birmingham in the 1960s. He continued to be commissioned for transport illustration, including prestigious work in the Middle East for Metro Camell trains. In 1966 he was commissioned for a series of aviation paintings for the Pakistan air force, produced in Peshawar.

In the 1970s, he worked more with graphic design and layout, as illustration and painting were being replaced by colour photography. In 1973, he won the Letraset international typeface competition for designing the font Shatter, an adaptation of the classic Helvetica font. His idea was to obtain a typeface with action and movement, but retaining the clarity of the Helvetica design, with each individual character easily identifiable. Shatter continues to remain commercially popular and has become a classic in its own right.

During the building boom of the 1980s, Vic switched his attention to architectural perspective illustration, including work for Peter Hing & Jones in Birmingham and Michael Aukett, latterly Aukett Associates, in London. He sometimes produced one or more of these paintings a week. He exhibited two works in the 1988 Royal Academy summer show, one commissioned by Michael Horden and the other by Foster Associates.

Vic had a keen interest in sailing and was an active member of the South Staffordshire sailing club. His passion for yachts and marine art developed through numerous painting commissions for the yacht designer Jon Bannenberg, including one of the pioneering yacht Nabila for the Saudi tycoon Adnan Khashoggi. Jon's son, Dickie, remembers Vic's artwork being delivered by train to the studio wrapped in brown paper which Jon would always rip off impatiently, propping the painting on a chair for the day for everyone to admire.

Vic was well-liked for his quiet and calm personality, and was admired as an artist unparalleled in painting yachts against backdrops such as the Antarctic, the Golden Gate bridge and fireworks over Istanbul. He continued taking on high-profile commissions into his 80s. He never used computer technology, instead relying on the techniques of hand-rendering and painting that he had practised during his long career.

Vic is survived by his wife, Hilda, whom he married in 1950, his children, Leigh, Paul and Tonia, and four grandchildren.

Victor Carless, artist, born 13 January 1928; died 28 August 2011 © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

September 21 2011

Raissa Page obituary

Her photographs gave voice to those at the margins of society

Raissa Page, who has died aged 78, came to photography when she was already into her 40s, and was entirely self-taught. At first, she harnessed her keen eye to many of the projects on which she had previously worked as a social worker, her primary intention being to give a voice to the voiceless, whether an elderly care-home resident or an autistic child. She cared passionately for the marginalised and ignored, and to that end spent time in China and India before returning closer to home and the women's protest at the Greenham Common military base in Berkshire.

If a single image were to represent her 20-year archive, it would be a 1983 black-and-white panorama of the Greenham women. Raissa's friend and fellow photographer Maggie Murray described the occasion: "I remember hiding with her and the other women in the freezing cold and dark, silently preparing equipment before dawn on New Year's Day. We were waiting to photograph women protesters attack the perimeter fence with bolt cutters and tall ladders, and race across the airfield evading capture to scale a nuclear missile silo." The women are pictured singing and holding hands on top of the silos.

Raissa was born Cleone Alexandra Smilis in Toronto, the only child of a Macedonian father and British mother, both immigrants to Canada. Her father, Nick, worked his way up to owning a chain of restaurants. He took Raissa on a visit to Greece with him when she was in her 20s. The family had been drawn into the civil war that followed the second world war, and Raissa learned that a cousin of her age had "disappeared". Their inability to trace the girl, and the poverty – Raissa bitterly regretted once requesting an egg to eat, only to learn that her relatives had walked miles to obtain one – were a formative experience.

She left school at the age of 16 and worked for the Canadian meteorological office on Prince Edward Island and then in Vancouver as a life model. A young English art student, Robin Page, fell for her and, after a Greek wedding in Toronto in 1955, they settled in Britain, where their daughter, Rachel, was born. The marriage collapsed, and Raissa went on to work at Bernard Leach's pottery in St Ives; as a private investigator for divorce solicitors; and at a variety of disliked jobs, none of which could properly sustain her and Rachel, whom she felt obliged to have fostered.

It was Raissa's own experience of social services that seems to have persuaded her to qualify as a social worker at North Western Polytechnic (now the University of North London). She worked in the fostering and adoption sections of children's departments in Tower Hamlets and Westminster, wondering what more she could do to support struggling parents beyond removing their children. She joined a project initiated by a group of women working at the National Children's Bureau called Who Cares? which aimed to give a voice to children in care. Raissa devised Who Cares? magazine, and edited a 1977 book of the same name.

It was at this time that she took up photography. She had joined social services to help people in need but felt increasingly disaffected. Having joined the Orthodox church in London – taking the name of Saint Raissa, martyred in 11th-century Alexandria, to replace her own (hated) given name – she felt out of kilter there too.

Retaining her links with social services, she took on a series of photographic projects for Who Cares? (now funded by local authorities and distributed free to every child in care); for Social Work Today; and for various newspapers. She took meticulous care to respect her subjects and project their views – of themselves, and of their role in society – and printed all her own black-and-white images.

She worked in colour mainly to commission, most notably in a series of portraits of women miners in West Virginia in 1978. Their slogan – "Women Miners Can Dig It Too" – summarises the sassy way in which they presented themselves, defiantly unprettified in their work clothes, eyeballing the camera with pride and humour. During the British miners' strike of 1984-85, Raissa tracked marches and demonstrations across Britain. She was a contributor to Striking Women: Communities and Coal (1986).

In 1983 the women's photographic collective Format Photographers was founded, originally with the name F11 (it had 11 founding members). Raissa was part of the collective for 10 years (Format finally wound up in 2003). Her work was creatively and technically powerful, and she approached many subjects others would not: the Falasha community in Israel, and patients at Friern Barnet psychiatric hospital, north London, to name two. Murray, who together with Val Wilmer conceived the idea of a women's photo agency, said that "what Raissa brought to a newly formed agency was experience and authority. Her high standards and strong visual sense influenced and supported the collective."

I joined Format as picture editor, and Raissa came to Cuba with me on a work trip in 1984, during which we travelled the island, interviewing, recording and taking photographs. Although fearless professionally, she proved to be terrified of cockroaches. I have never seen anyone leap so fast or so high as she did when one scuttled across the floor, pursued by me with a bar of soap.

At the age of 60, when arthritis got the better of her, and lugging – or even holding – a camera became a chore, Raissa retired to a cottage in a Welsh village with her friend Adrianne Jones – "what she called her paradise", according to Adrianne. Raissa is survived by Rachel.

• Raissa (Cleone Alexandra) Page, photographer, born 23 October 1932; died 28 July 2011 © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

September 07 2011

Jerome Liebling, chronicler of the commonplace

US photographer Jerome Liebling had an unrivalled eye for the everyday. Here is a selection of his powerful portraits

August 25 2011

Margaret Olley obituary

Maverick Australian still-life painter with a colourful, fluid post-impressionist style

The Australian painter Margaret Olley, who has died aged 88, produced vibrant still lifes in a vaguely post-impressionist style, but was at least as famous for her ebullience, plain speaking and tireless philanthropy. As her friend Justin O'Brien put it: "God gave Olley an extra battery," and Meg Stewart's 2005 biography of Olley was aptly subtitled Far from a Still Life.

Olley's position a long way from art's cutting edge did not prevent her from gaining the respect of fellow painters such as Sidney Nolan and her close friends Russell Drysdale and Donald Friend, while those other noted Australians Clive James and Barry Humphries wrote essays and even poems about her. James eloquently described her art's chromatic quality – "colour arranged like sound" – and Humphries, a collector of her work, commented on its "strong, theatrical character" and ability to "give huge pleasure".

As well as being a highly productive painter, Olley made a fortune from property development, which enabled her to support a variety of causes, ranging from healthcare to museums. She donated more than 100 works, both her own and those of other artists, to the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, although she could not bring herself to support the purchase of a picture by Cy Twombly and in general had the reputation of being a tad conservative.

Olley admitted that others regarded her as somewhat "to the right of Genghis Khan" but, with her passion for conservation and other righteous causes, she was hard to stereotype. She was fond of buttonholing politicians and, according to the curator Edmund Capon, held forth at dinner parties like an antipodean Dorothy Parker. A tendency to depression dogged her into old age. Such a complex, idiosyncratic personality attracted widespread admiration, and in 1997 she was named an Australian National Treasure.

Olley was born in Lismore, New South Wales, but spent much of her childhood on the family sugar-cane plantation at Tully, in the north of Queensland. Her parents made a considerable sacrifice to send her to Somerville House, a private boarding school in Brisbane, where she managed to switch from French to extra art lessons.

A perceptive teacher inspired Olley to pursue a career as a painter, and, having trained first in Brisbane, she entered the East Sydney Technical College in 1943. During this period, in order to pay the rent she collaborated with Nolan on stage designs for Shakespeare's Pericles and Jean Cocteau's Orphée, before winning the first Mosman art prize with a picture of the Wallamumbi hills (1947). This achievement was followed a year later by a one-woman show at the Macquarie Galleries in Sydney.

Despite her success at this time, Olley gained a degree of notoriety in 1949 from a portrait painted by William Dobell in which she appeared in a flamboyant silk frock and hat, rather than the beige dress that she actually wore at the sittings. Although the image was dismissed by critics as a caricature, it won the Archibald prize, attracting crowds of viewers to the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Olley responded to the commotion by taking off to London, gravitating soon afterwards to Cassis in France before attending the Académie de la Grande Chaumière art school in Paris. After the death of her father in 1952, she returned to Australia, bringing back a colourful, fluid style influenced by Matisse and Bonnard, but her still lifes attracted little critical approval. Reviews waxed and waned, rarely getting beyond "interesting" and "decorative", while her personal life went from difficult to torrid, and her drinking became something of a scandal. Only right at the end of the decade did she give up alcohol, entirely and for good.

The next two decades of her life were perhaps her most fulfilling. Moving between Brisbane, Sydney and Newcastle in New South Wales, she bought and renovated a number of historic properties, including, in 1965, a former hat factory in the Paddington district of Sydney. There she created an atmospheric home and studio, filled with artefacts from her travels to New Guinea, Indonesia and many other countries. As she put it: "I am the original bag lady."

During this period, Olley's work grew in range and stature. Early in the 1960s, she embarked on some memorable studies of Aboriginal women in which the introspective expressions contrast strangely with Olley's bright palette and riots of flowers. The hat factory itself provided perhaps her most enduring theme, combining an Australian setting with an intimate, sensual idiom that is unmistakably French in inspiration.

Olley's continuing professional success in the 1970s was accompanied by personal happiness with the theatre director and gallery manager Sam Hughes, whom she had first met in the 1940s, and for a while they shared her house in Sydney. His death in 1982, together with that of Olley's mother, and a fire at her family home in Brisbane, opened another dark phase of her life.

This did not prevent her from producing some striking late works, including Homage to Manet (1987), in which two contrasting copies of Manet's The Balcony appear behind a characteristic still life, as well as ambitious and evocative paintings of interiors. In 1990 she founded the Margaret Hannah Olley Art Trust, which has contributed significantly to the acquisition funds of Australian museums. Six years later she had a retrospective exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Olley was made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2006, for both her art and her philanthropy. In her final year, she was once again the subject of a portrait, this time by Ben Quilty. Like its controversial predecessor, this painting won the Archibald prize.

• Margaret Hannah Olley, painter, born 24 June 1923; died 26 July 2011 © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

August 17 2011

Roger Butlin obituary

Innovative stage designer with a love of baroque opera and a painterly sensibility

In 1972 Thomas Allen was a young baritone preparing to sing Benjamin Britten's Billy Budd for Welsh National Opera. Although nervous, he was reassured by the atmospheric designs, and later recalled thinking: "This piece is going to be a success. We can't fail," because Roger Butlin's set "was so wonderful that we would have been idiots not to make it work."

One of the earliest opera designs by Butlin, who has died aged 76, it proved a landmark production. For Michael Geliot's intensely realistic version, Butlin designed a cross-section of an 18th-century warship. The effect was evocative and claustrophobic. As the critic Rodney Milnes wrote: "Butlin's exceptionally well thought-out sets and costumes indicate many hours well spent in the National Maritime Museum." Even the backcloth had "the cracked-varnish patina of a nautical seascape". Butlin's sensitive, graceful designs, especially of Britten and pre-romantic opera, added lustre to British and international stages.

Born in Stafford, he studied interior design and textiles at the West of England College of Art, Bristol, and for six years taught art at Cheltenham College junior school, where he met his wife, Joanna. In 1966 Sean Kenny's striking set for The Flying Dutchman at Covent Garden inspired his shift into theatre. Awarded an Arts Council design scholarship, he assisted at Sadler's Wells before making his full professional debut at the newly reopened Greenwich theatre, in south-east London.

Butlin's design for the musical play Martin Luther King (1969) is now in the V&A collection. A strong hexagonal thrust stage was backed by a screen showing news images of unrest and police brutality. As head of design at Greenwich (1969-72), he had successes that included Barbara Windsor playing Marie Lloyd in Sing a Rude Song; The Three Sisters with Mia Farrow and Joan Plowright; and Peter Nichols's barbed, nostalgic comedy Forget-Me-Not Lane, which transferred to the West End and secured Butlin a Variety award nomination.

Butlin had a painterly sensibility, and beautifully achieved panoramas often shaped his stage designs. John Cox's 1974 Glyndebourne production of Idomeneo (later released on DVD), dominated by a series of metallic hoops, was backed by Turner's views of the aristocratic Petworth estate. The critic Peter Conrad described how "the Turners, seen in tunnel vision as if through the wrong end of a telescope, betokened a classical calm which Mozart's characters, agitated by romantic emotion, had already left behind them."

Botticelli's Birth of Venus inspired an entrancing Return of Ulysses at Kent Opera (1978), while the award-winning Così Fan Tutte at ENO (1985) offered a balmy Bay of Naples. More recently, Butlin's Purcell productions with the director Thomas Guthrie were inspired by British artists: the first world war artist David Jones for King Arthur (2007), and the anguished fantasies of Richard Dadd for The Fairy Queen, which English Touring Opera tours this autumn. The director Tim Carroll believes that baroque opera "touched something very deeply in him", as did the "optimism and joie de vivre" of the age of enlightenment.

Janet Baker chose Gluck's Alceste as her farewell to Covent Garden (1981), and recorded an observer remarking that Butlin's set "looked exactly like the music". Butlin returned to the Royal Opera in 1998 with a black-and-white Marriage of Figaro, and also worked in Rome, Brussels and Dallas. His Barber of Seville, with Cox, featured in an early season at the Sydney Opera House in 1976.

Although proud to design for the world's renowned stages, he also relished smaller, quixotic projects. "He was always struggling with difficult causes," Allen recalled. "They appealed to him." Few were as precarious as Kent Opera, innovative but perpetually underfunded, for which Butlin and Norman Platt, the company's founder, produced a stream of memorable productions (Handel's Agrippina at Sadler's Wells was nominated for a Society of West End Theatre award in 1982).

The company's funding was axed in 1989, but Platt revived New Kent Opera in 1994. The opening production, Britten's Prodigal Son, paired Butlin with Carroll – Butlin relished working with new artists and loved to watch talent bloom. The pair formed a close friendship and created notable productions of Orfeo, The Turn of the Screw, and Acis and Galatea. Carroll recalled how the designer would make his young colleagues howl with laughter at his mock rap, but nonetheless refused to compromise his exacting design demands.

Butlin and Allen became friends on Billy Budd (he later gave his production sketches to Allen's son). He also collaborated on the singer's directorial debut, Britten's Albert Herring at the Royal College of Music (2002). Viewed through a sepia gauze painted with an Edwardian-style picture postcard, one critic hailed the "brilliantly designed" seaside shenanigans "that could stand comparison even with Glyndebourne's virtually definitive staging".

Comedy was unintentional in Spontini's La Vestale (Wexford, 1979), commemorated in Hugh Vickers's book Even Greater Operatic Disasters (1982). Butlin's raked, shiny white stage was treated to prevent slippage. When a zealous stagehand scrubbed it clean, the chorus "one by one shot gloriously down the stage to join their colleagues in a struggling heap at the footlights". Butlin, listening to a live radio broadcast, was baffled by the audience's helpless guffaws.

Although opera was central to his career, he enjoyed theatre, designing two George Bernard Shaw plays for the Royal Shakespeare Company, including Misalliance (1986), in which Jane Lapotaire's Polish aviator crashed her plane into an elegant Surrey conservatory. Later, he and Carroll worked at Shakespeare's Globe, notably on The Two Noble Kinsmen (2000), staging this anguished chivalric romance around a vast warhorse's skull, encased in armour (the cast affectionately named it Shergar).

For almost two decades, Butlin lived in the Kentish oast house which had been Kent Opera's office. These years were far from easy, troubled by illness, financial hardship and the death of his son Tom of a brain tumour in 1994, aged 24. When diagnosed with the same condition, he said simply: "If Tom can face this, then so can I." Friends were moved by his acceptance of loss. He was never bitter. "He was the gentlest of people," said Allen, "entirely loveable."

He is survived by Joanna (although divorced, they remained close), his daughter, Mandarava, who designed puppets for several of his productions, and his son, Conrad.

• Roger Butlin, stage designer, born 1 June 1935; died 23 July 2011 © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Kathleen Walne obituary

Watercolour artist hailed as being ahead of her time

Kathleen Walne, who has died aged 95, produced some of the most unusual and exuberantly colourful English watercolours of the last century. She was a natural designer whose figure studies, still lifes and landscapes are infused with a dash of continental expressionism.

Kathleen was born in Ipswich, the fourth of seven children of Herbert and Ruby Walne. She never lost her Suffolk accent or affection for the county, and described her upbringing as idyllic, despite its problems. While in primary school she developed tonsilitis "and lost everything of importance in my childhood". She had to have an operation and, having missed many lessons, could not catch up. However, in the little elementary school near her home, an art teacher arranged for her to enter Ipswich Art School.

Kathleen gained a £1 a week scholarship and joined the design school, "destined to be a book illustrator", then inveigled herself into the painting school, where she met her future husband, the painter Frank Ward. Hers was a gruelling day, with morning, afternoon and evening classes. Her father's income was erratic and she "would return for lunch and my poor mother would say 'There's nothing to eat.' I'd have a drink of water and return."

In 1933 Frank entered the Royal College of Art in London and, realising that Kathleen's originality was not appreciated at Ipswich, tried to interest London galleries in her work. He was successful with Lucy Wertheim, who three years earlier had opened a gallery in Burlington Gardens devoted to showing talented young artists. It was agreed that Kathleen would join Wertheim as gallery dogsbody. From her semi-basement room she could "see all the feet passing by", which she liked because "I've always been interested in people more than anything". It would be as a figure painter that Kathleen would establish her name.

Wertheim paid Kathleen 10 shillings for those pictures that she liked, putting her under contract. Late in 1935 she was given a solo show, but Wertheim found that originality could count against her protege: "The all too rare purchaser complained that his 'Kathleen Walne' made the rest of his pictures appear drab."

However, she gradually created for herself a circle of admirers. Wertheim recalled in her memoir Adventure in Art (1947) that, during one private view, Kathleen "mistook her paint rag for her dishcloth". As guests were offered a second cup of tea, one after another pushed her cup away exclaiming: "What vile stuff – it tastes more like turpentine!"

Many fine studies from these years would find their way into public collections. Interior (1936, now at Salford Art Gallery), Girl With Cat (1935, at the Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne) and Mother and Child (1937, at Auckland City Art Gallery, New Zealand), as well as Self Portrait (1938), which is held in a private collection, are striking examples of her ability to create powerful, quirky designs enriched with wine-rich pigment uncommon in most English watercolours.

Frank and Kathleen were married in 1938. The following year, he joined the staff of Wilson's boys' grammar school in Camberwell, south-east London (now in Sutton), rejoining it in 1945 after army service, and retiring in 1974. Much of Kathleen's war was spent with her daughter Hilary, in Stradbroke, Suffolk, where Frank's father had a grocery shop.

After the second world war Frank and Kathleen returned to live in Chelsea, where before hostilities they had become friendly with the painter Theo Garman and his mother Kathleen. The friendship continued after the war, with Frank visiting the studio of Theo's father, the sculptor Jacob Epstein, and meeting Winston Churchill several times.

In 1957 Wertheim moved to Brighton. After she was diagnosed with cancer, Frank and Kathleen in 1968 decided to join her and for several years Kathleen looked after "Aunt Luce".

Kathleen and Frank shared a show at Compendium 2 in London in 1972, and one in Brighton in 1975. In 1986 Kathleen was given a successful solo exhibition at Salford Museum and Art Gallery. She continued to win new fans. When the critic Michael Shepherd reviewed British Art 1920-1960 at Blond Fine Art in 1987, among three works he singled out "with a freedom of handling well in advance of their times in Britain" was "Kathleen Walne's Nicholas Horsfield of 1936 (which could have been done by [RB] Kitaj yesterday)".

In 1997, Mixed Palette, my short study of Frank and Kathleen's painting lives, was published. Frank died the following year. Kathleen continued to paint into her 90s, a feisty character alert to what was happening in the Brighton art scene and beyond. She is survived by a son, Richard, Hilary and a second daughter, Mairny.

• Kathleen Walne, artist, born 3 October 1915; died 30 June 2011 © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

August 16 2011

Hilary Evans obituary

Paranormal researcher and co-founder of the Mary Evans Picture Library

The life and career of Hilary Evans, who has died aged 82, were indelibly entwined with those of his wife, Mary. In 1964, they co-founded the Mary Evans Picture Library, a world-famous collection of millions of (primarily) 18th- and 19th-century illustrations. Less well-known, perhaps, was Hilary's career as a writer and researcher into the paranormal. Many groups benefited from his curiosity, intelligence and self-effacing kindness.

Having developed an interest in the paranormal during his student days, he joined the Society for Psychical Research in the late 1960s. He also belonged to the British UFO Research Association and the Folklore Society. In 1981, he co-founded the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena, a national educational and research charity designed to investigate the common psychological processes behind varying phenomena, studying them together rather than in isolation.

In five decades as a professional writer, besides countless articles Hilary published three novels; 15 books on art, illustration and picture librarianship; seven books on social history, including a history of prostitution (1979); and 16 books on anomalous phenomena.

When I started the Skeptic magazine in 1987, one of the first subscribers to write back was Hilary, offering us the run of the picture library's collection to liven up the pages of what at the time was a very drab, poorly designed newsletter. Being foreign and new to British publishing, I had no idea how lucky we were. For 20 years the look of the magazine has been largely defined by his generosity.

Hilary was born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, the son of a vicar who moved the family to India to take up a headteacher's job when Hilary was four. At nine, in 1938, he returned to Britain to attend St George's school in Harpenden, Hertfordshire. From then on, he rarely saw his family, spending school holidays with British-based relatives. He served in the military in 1947-48 as a constable with the Palestine police. Discharged with exemplary conduct, he read English at King's College, Cambridge, and completed a master's degree at Birmingham University. After a couple of years tutoring the son of a wealthy Turkish family, he joined an advertising agency as a copywriter in 1953. He stayed there for 12 years, until he and his employer agreed he was not suited to management. Thereafter, he devoted himself full-time to the library and freelance writing.

He met Mary at a party, and they married in 1956. Family legend has it that he realised how perfect a match they were on their honeymoon when, during a meal in a restaurant in Paris, he felt her kicking him under the table. Investigating, he discovered that she was trying to pass him a small mustard pot. Spotted: a fellow collector.

Most people who research paranormal phenomena choose a side in a war of competing beliefs and disputed evidence. Hilary chose instead the side of scholarship, backed up by the massive home library that he donated to the Archives for UFO Research in Sweden – all 5.5 tonnes of it. His measured approach focused on social and cultural context and human psychology, as he believed that understanding extraordinary phenomena required understanding the person who experienced them. That is not to say he never drew conclusions. He was scathing about alien abductions, for example, a belief he (wrongly) predicted in the late 1980s would never take hold in Britain because people there were too sensible.

The range of his scholarship through time and across phenomena meant he was able to see connections no one else could. In books such as Intrusions: Society and the Paranormal (1982), Visions, Apparitions, Alien Visitors (1984) and Gods, Spirits, Cosmic Guardians (1987), he drew a direct line from, for example, folktales of fairies and leprechauns to modern-day accounts of extraterrestrial visitors. His later books included Outbreak! (2009), which examined cases of mass hysteria, and Sliders (2010), which covered street-light interference, the belief by some people that they turn off street lights as they pass by them. Failing eyesight prevented him from writing down his next book, which he had ready in his head.

Mary died last year. Hilary is survived by their daughter, Valentine, three grandchildren, two brothers and a sister.

• Hilary Evans, picture librarian and author, born 6 March 1929; died 27 July 2011 © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

August 12 2011

David Measures obituary

Artist inspired by the natural world who was the first to paint live butterflies in flight

Paintings of butterflies used to be done entirely from dead specimens. David Measures, who has died aged 73 of complications from leukaemia, was the first artist to paint them flying in their natural habitats. He painted all of the British species, from the common cabbage white to the extremely rare large blue. David was a pioneering original in world terms – not just a superb naturalist, but also an inspired painter who extended the language of art.

David was born in Warwick. His childhood was idyllic. The family lived in the tiny Old Toll Cottage, tucked below Warwick Castle on the banks of the river Avon. As a boy, he spent every spare moment exploring the countryside, rowing and swimming in the river. Nature called to him all his life. He expressed it beautifully: "There is a magnet in me drawn to the subtle sense-aura of wild freedom, the porous exchange apparent in wild places and the richness of variety and subtlety which I miss inside a building."

He had always drawn, and did so outdoors from the age of seven. When the time came to decide whether to pursue his interest in the science of natural history or develop his love of art, he chose the latter. The need to praise was stronger in him than the need to analyse. He studied at colleges in mid-Warwickshire, then Bournemouth, and finally the Slade School of Art in London. Like many of his contemporaries, he was excited by the panache of postwar American artists, and his work became increasingly abstract.

In 1964 he took up a lecturing post at Nottingham College of Art (now Nottingham Trent University) and settled in a 15th-century cottage in the nearby town of Southwell, with his wife, Christine, also an artist, and their daughter, Sally, soon to be followed by their son, Simon. Like the medieval stonemasons who carved the uniquely realistic foliage in Southwell Minster's splendid chapterhouse, David found his inspiration in the lush local countryside.

It was in the late 1960s that his particular interest in butterflies emerged. What drew him to them was his fascination with the effects of colour on the retina, a concern of many op artists at that time. As he began making studies of the iridescence on their wings, he found himself drawn into these creatures' lives, wondering what made them chase each other, what they did in the rain, where they went at night. The intimacy he had felt with nature as a child welled up inside him. He wrote of those rare times when "after a period of watching, your particular butterfly character appears to become reconciled to your presence, seems to allow a trust to exist, whereby both of you take part, each functioning in your own way, freely and co-existent".

It became his life's work to paint these moments, and he developed remarkable skills to capture them. You have to be very quick and agile to paint butterflies in flight, and your equipment must be light: a drawing pad, or sheets of paper clipped to a board, and a tiny box of paints. David learned to do without brushes and water. Amazingly, his delicate, energetic paintings were mostly done with his fingertips and spit; fine details were picked out with his nails. He used a child's multicoloured biro to record his observations of what was going on, because he wasn't creating pictures to hang on walls, but experiencing life as fully as one can. He wrote of the importance of being able to be absolutely still. He told of how one day he was standing in a clump of heather, wrapped up in an overcoat and scarf, when two walkers passed by. "What's that scarecrow doing there?" he heard one ask, as he remained motionless, smiling inside.

Slowly, but surely, his work gained a reputation in the field of natural history (though recognition by the art world still awaits). In 1973 he was featured in the programme David's Meadow, for David Bellamy's BBC TV series Bellamy's Britain. His book Bright Wings of Summer, illustrated with paintings and vivid texts, came out in 1976. He spent every moment he could out in the field, painting and observing all the British species, producing page after page of wonderful coloured studies: butterfly days, each dated and timed from dawn till dusk – a remarkable diary of life in nature. These were later bound in yearbooks, and one was published in 1996 as Butterfly Season: 1984.

David's interest in the natural world widened, and he painted the life of a wood and an old orchard as they changed through the seasons. The fruits of his four-year observation of a hobby falcon – a surprise visitor to Southwell – are to be published by subscription in his memory. He taught regularly at a summer school in Scotland run by his friend John Busby, based around the Bass Rock, and inspired new generations of wildlife artists. Defying a congenital disorder that made him unable to sweat, he began to travel regularly to Spain and Italy, excited by the brilliant southern light and unfamiliar species.

He also began to paint landscapes for their own sake. Experimental as ever, he developed an original technique using small rollers and stencils to create luminous yet rigorous designs that capture permanence and transience. These little, jewel-like paintings open in the mind's eye like butterfly's wings, letting us glimpse patterns of being that outlast death.

This work gained a deeper resonance after David's first bout of leukaemia in 2003. His subsequent paintings of Cressbrook Dale in Derbyshire, where he had been painting regularly since 1993, chart a remarkable re-emergence of the two aspects of his life, art and nature, infused with his sheer joy at being alive. People lucky enough to know him felt uplifted by his exuberance.

He is survived by Christine, Sally and Simon, and four grandchildren.

• David Guy Measures, painter, born 22 November 1937; died 4 August 2011 © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

August 11 2011

Gordon Fazakerley obituary

My cousin Gordon Fazakerley, artist and poet, who has died in his adopted country, Denmark, aged 74, spent more than five decades there, but remained a Merseysider at heart.

Born in Widnes, he eschewed the family grocery business to enrol, in the face of family opposition, at Liverpool School of Art and then the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London. He had his first solo exhibition in 1959 at the Institute of Contemporary Art, organised by Herbert Read and Lawrence Alloway when Gordon was doing his national service. In 1961, using winnings from his part-time bookmaker's job, he travelled to Sweden and came into contact with Jørgen Nash and the Bauhaus situationist group, becoming a founder member at Asger Jorn's farm in Drakabygget and editor of the breakaway Situationist Times.

It was there that he met Ulla Borchsensius, a journalist who had gone to interview the group; they married and settled in Copenhagen. Gordon played the role of outsider in Danish art, unaffected by events within it, his paintings in the style of postwar abstract impressionism based on literature and music.

He went on to have many exhibitions, in Denmark principally, culminating in a major retrospective in 2000 at the Museum Jorn in Silkeborg, but also in Sweden, Germany and Britain, where most recently he was part of the 2007 Tate Liverpool exhibition Centre of the Creative Universe: Liverpool and the Avant Garde.

Gordon kept his British passport, his love of pubs (visiting the UK regularly for a "fix" and exhibitions) and northern dishes (he was an excellent cook), his Widnes accent (he never learned to speak Danish), but most essentially his Merseyside humour. He was a fan of Monty Python; his humour could best be described as unpredictable, rude, disrespectful, non-PC and acidic. He had a unique take on life and was great company.

He is survived by Ulla, his children, Susan and David, and two grandchildren. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Terence Baxter obituary

My brother, Terence Baxter, who has died aged 79, was one of London's leading antiques dealers and an expert on 18th-century English furniture, which he collected. He was also a keen golfer, with a raft of trophies. Not that he would have considered any of this remarkable, which was what helped to make him remarkable. To be fastidious in a luxury business that had its less salubrious side, or to play a sport with fairness and integrity, were simply what one did: a slightly old-fashioned view, though hopefully never outdated.

Above all, Terry was not preachy. He might have raised his eyebrows at the latest fashion worn by his beloved granddaughter, Tara, but I never heard him be judgmental of others. He preferred to lead by example and let others follow their own path. It led to a generally happy life, spoiled only by a much-hated period of military service just before the Suez crisis, served in Alexandria.

Terry was born in Wandsworth, south London, 18 months after our older brother, Roy. The family later moved to Ashtead, in Surrey, where Terry attended Ewell Castle school. He and Roy joined the family's antiques business in the mid-40s. HC Baxter and Sons had been founded by our father in the 1930s in Fulham Road. The firm specialised in English furniture primarily of the Chippendale, Hepplewhite and Sheraton periods, and stopped with little or no acknowledgement of anything later than the Regency period – and certainly no Victoriana.

The family business attracted buyers from all over the world, but primarily in the US and the UK. As the firm expanded, it moved to a purpose-built property a few yards away, designed to replicate an elegant four-storey town house. Terry later passed on the business to his son, Gary, but he continued to attend antiques fairs, notably Grosvenor House's annual event.

Terry's hobby was studying racing form and he maintained that he was a financial winner: we seldom heard of any losses. It was characteristic of him that when one Christmas period he enjoyed a substantial win on a triple bet, he divided the winnings equally between Gary; his daughter, Teresa; his wife of 55 years, Joyce; their family bank account; and a charity.

His other enthusiasm was for cinema (his children were named after the actors Gary Cooper and Teresa Wright) and for this I will always be thankful. I accompanied him at a very tender age to the local cinemas, and was raised on a diet of gangster movies and film noir, nourishing a family addiction which still persists.

He is survived by Joyce, Gary and Teresa, grandchildren Andrew, Benjamin and Tara, and myself. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

August 01 2011

John Hoyland obituary

Prodigiously creative abstract artist whose ultra-vivid work went to painting's extremes

A painter and printmaker of prodigious creative energy and imagination, John Hoyland, who has died aged 76 of complications following heart surgery in 2008, was widely recognised as one of the greatest abstract artists of his time. From the beginning of his career, he unwaveringly championed the centrality of abstraction to the living history of modernist art. "Non-figurative imagery possessed for me," he wrote, "the potential for the most advanced depth of feeling and meaning."

For Hoyland, it was necessary for paintings to be self-sufficient machines, constructed to convey a powerful charge of visual, mental and emotional energy without recourse to any historically established figurative imagery. The expressive force of his paintings derives from the intensity and conviction of their engagement with colour, scale and abstract form, rather than with any direct expression of personal feeling. Hoyland understood the force of Braque's wonderful maxim: "Sensation, revelation!"

Hoyland was born in Sheffield to a working-class family. He was educated from the age of 11 in the junior art department at Sheffield College of Art, progressing to the senior school four years later. It was there that he met his first great friend in art, Brian Fielding, and began his passionate critical-creative engagement with painting.

The work in his finals show at the Royal Academy Schools, London, in 1960, was ordered off the walls by the then president of the Royal Academy, although Hoyland was still awarded his diploma. Within months, he was exhibiting with some of the best British artists of the day in Situation, a show of "large abstract paintings" organised by the artists themselves with a little help from the critic Lawrence Alloway. Situation kickstarted the 60s art scene, and London quickly became one of the most exciting art capitals in the world.

Hoyland was the youngest artist in the show, and his career followed a spectacular trajectory over the course of the decade. After showing in the follow-up exhibition, New London Situation, in 1961, he was taken on by Marlborough, at that time the most prestigious commercial gallery in London. When a critic described his paintings as "exquisite and refined", Hoyland was shocked: "Painting should be a seismograph of the person, and if I'm being 'exquisite', I'm being false. That's why I ditched all that optical hard-edge painting." It was by no means the last time Hoyland would attain a mastery of means, only to change direction deliberately and reinvent his manner and style.

In March 1964, Hoyland was featured in Bryan Robertson's New Generation showcase of young painters at Whitechapel Art Gallery, joining a brilliant galaxy of rising stars including Patrick Caulfield (who became a lifelong friend), David Hockney, Paul Huxley, Alan Jones and Bridget Riley. Not long after, he embarked on an astonishing series of huge acrylic canvases of high-key deep greens, reds, violets and oranges deployed in radiant fields, stark blocks and shimmering columns of ultra-vibrant colour. It was an achievement in scale and energy, sharpness of definition, originality and expressive power unmatched by any of his contemporaries, and unparalleled in modern British art. Visiting the studio in late 1965, Robertson immediately proposed a full-scale exhibition at the Whitechapel.

His one-man exhibition at that gallery in the spring of 1967 was a defining moment in the history of British abstract painting. It consolidated Hoyland's reputation, and established him without question as one of the two or three best abstract painters of his generation anywhere in the world.

Hoyland went to live and work in the United States in the late 1960s, and he was welcomed into the company of New York artists and critics including Clement Greenberg, Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler, Barnett Newman and Kenneth Noland. Although he counted the younger "cooler" painters such as Noland, Larry Poons and Jules Olitski among his friends there, it was always the brave and visionary older generation painters with whom he felt most sympathy.

Newman especially struck a deep chord: "The image we produce," Newman had written, "is the self-evident one of revelation, real and concrete, that can be understood by anyone who will look at it without the nostalgic glasses of history."

Hoyland never felt particularly happy in the competitive hothouse of east coast painting. Encountering in a New York gallery the work of Hans Hofmann and recognising its European roots was a crucial epiphany. Acknowledging that he belonged essentially within the tradition of British and northern European colouristic expressionism, in 1973 Hoyland returned to England. Van Gogh, Gauguin, Matisse, Emil Nolde and Nicolas de Staël had all been deeply admired by Hoyland from early in his artistic life. His painting from this time until the mid-1980s was to be characterised by high colour, architectonic structures loosely based in geometric forms, and a richly textured, painterly surface.

For a talk at the Tate in the 80s, Hoyland wrote a wonderfully undiscriminating and inclusive list of the subjects, experiences and objects that fired his imagination: "Shields, masks, tools, artefacts, mirrors, Avebury Circle, swimming underwater, snorkelling, views from planes, volcanoes, mountains, waterfalls, rocks, graffiti, stains, damp walls, cracked pavements, puddles, the cosmos inside the human body, food, drink, being drunk, sex, music, dancing, relentless rhythm, the Caribbean, the tropical light, the northern light, the oceanic light. Primitive art, peasant art, Indian art, Japanese and Chinese art, musical instruments, drums, jazz, the spectacle of sport, the colour of sport, magic realism, Borges, the metaphysical, dawn, sunsets, fish eyes, trees, flowers, seas, atolls. The Book of Imaginary Beings, the Dictionary of Angels, heraldry, North American Indian blankets, Rio de Janeiro, Montego Bay!"

To which might be added: Zen poetry, classical, modern and contemporary painting and sculpture, domestic pottery, driving cars, humming birds, gulls and reptiles, eclipses of the sun and moon. At any time, Hoyland might be reading and absorbing the writings of Miró, the poetry of Frank O'Hara, the novels of Gabriel García Márquez, and Japanese and Chinese poetry. All of these things fed a voracious appetite for sensory, intellectual and emotional experience in a life of sharp sight and heightened receptivity, free of preconception and cliche.

Some critics found the uninhibited exuberance of Hoyland's later painting, its superabundance of effects and its technical extremism, overwhelming. But those who loved this work were exhilarated by its spectacular diversity of visual effect, and by its impulse towards fantasy released by a heroic ambition that took him again and again to the extreme of what painting might achieve. Hoyland was always a maker of evocative images, with a disposition to the grandly visionary-poetic which has been rare in English painting since that of his greatest heroes, Turner and Constable.

Hoyland was a critically generous and able advocate of British abstract art (he counted Anthony Caro among his closest friends, and acknowledged the great sculptor's enduring influence on him). He was a constant supporter of succeeding generations of younger abstract artists, who found in him an eloquent mentor and friend. In 1979, he selected the Hayward Annual, an exhibition that remains a landmark in the history of British abstract painting. In 1988, he curated an important exhibition at the Tate Gallery of late paintings by Hofmann. He was elected Royal Academician in 1991. In 2006, Tate St Ives held the exhibition John Hoyland: The Trajectory of a Fallen Angel, bringing together paintings from 1966 to 2003.

Hoyland was a man of acerbic wit, and a wickedly cruel mimic, but behind a carefully crafted persona there was enormous generosity of spirit and true kindness. A lover of pubs and restaurants, he was a man without side, utterly un-snobbish, and ever aware of his working-class beginnings. He was an inveterate traveller, visiting South America (with Caro), Australia (with Caulfield), and latterly Spain, Italy, Jamaica and Bali with his longterm companion, Beverley Heath, whom he married with great joy in 2008. Wherever he went, he relentlessly gathered ideas and impressions, in photographs and sketchbooks, as sources for imagery. Nothing was lost and nowhere was alien to this most complete of artists.

He is survived by Beverley; his son, Jeremy, from his first marriage, to Airi; and his mother, Kathleen.

John Hoyland, painter, printmaker and teacher, born 12 October 1934; died 31 July 2011 © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.

Don't be the product, buy the product!