Friday, 28 April 2017

David Ferguson

David Ferguson
Visits to David's home in Cornwall were always happy occasions.
He had taught at the Bristol School of Art with Himself for many years. (The art school is now known as 'the University of the West of England' i.e. 'the University of Woe'!)
David ran the annual Cornish landscape course for the Bristol students with the help of Himself and visiting artists such as Patrick Heron, Brian Wynter, Roger Hilton and Paul Feiler.
He grew to love the area and the people and chose to live there in retirement. We used to visit him in Cornwall on a regular basis.
Sometimes we ate in style in his dining room,  with it's careful display of family china and glass.
His life looked serene and well-ordered.
His work is equally serene, beautifully rendered landscapes and figure studies where the subject matter is pared down to extreme simplicity that actually says a great deal. Very much a case of less is more.
It amuses me that such beautiful work was produced out of the most chaotic studio. Paint everywhere, except perhaps on the ceiling!

I sat for my portrait. David had been a student at the Slade under William Coldstream and I was initially carefully measured with the aid of a pair of callipers. 

The first sittings took place over three days. I listened to the seagulls outside the window and occasionally saw them wheeling in the sky as David worked.
He made several studies at the same time, later rejecting those that he wasn't happy with.
We went home and waited patiently to hear when the portrait would be finished. I returned for further sittings. It took several years! 
But it was worth the wait and quite upsetting to see the finished result because, not only had he captured me but also my mother and grandmother, neither of whom he had known.
Now the 'family face' hangs in our sitting room. David had put up an impressive fight with various forms of cancer during the last years of his life. As it turned out, my portrait was the final commission that he carried out.
We own other examples of his work. This study of Cape Cornwall is more than just a picture of the place, it is also full of stories. David was a great story-teller. He pointed to each building and told their history; the house where 'Elephant Bill'  lived and Duncan Grant's house where Virginia Woolf visited whilst writing 'To the Lighthouse'. (She set the book in Scotland but described the local Cornish flora and fauna to the annoyance of some readers when the book was published.) 
David died on the 8th of April and we traveled to Cornwall to attend his funeral. He was buried in the last plot in the graveyard of the village that he had come to call home. We have lovely things to remember him by but shall miss his company.

1 comment:

  1. Was glad to hear the rest of the story Rosemary.