This is by the portrait artist Eugene Fisk, who painted my father during several visits he made to the artist’s studio. Because in the last post I showed a portrait ‘mask’ I’d made of Trevor as a ‘Green Man’, I thought this a good moment to share the painting of him.
For many years Eugene and his partner Elizabeth Organ ran the Kilvert Gallery in Clyro, where Eugene’s eyrie was up under the roof rafters. The Kilvert, once the home of the Reverend Francis Kilvert of ‘Kilvert’s Diaries’ fame, was the first gallery to show my paintings, Lizzie having been supportive from the moment she set eyes on my portfolio. It was there I had my first show, sharing the space with the marvellous Charles Shearer.
Trevor was a regular at the house and gallery, a colourful presence at exhibition openings. Unbeknown to us he was regularly sitting for Eugene, going up to the studio to chat whenever Peter and I were delivering paintings. The portrait was made ‘informally’ (not commissioned) Trevor having either kept the sittings a secret, or not thinking them significant. Therefore when the painting was finished and the artist showed it to us, Peter and I were genuinely surprised. Trevor’s birthday was the day before my own, and so at midnight on June 10th, as we jointly celebrated at our house in Cardiff, Peter produced the painting as an unexpected gift to father and son, explaining that we could split it between us, six months of any year at Trevor’s, and then six months at our house. In the event Trevor made off with the painting and it stayed with him until his death. Now it hangs here at Ty Isaf in the ‘Winter’ sitting-room.
My father was as pleased as punch with the painting, and gave it pride of place in his home. He was a man of gentle vanity, and you can see something of his confident ease in the painting. Relaxed, legs akimbo, hands loosely clasped. (Trevor had beautiful, strong hands.) Eugene has marvellously captured his sitter’s sunny disposition. Trevor sits there, entirely happy to be looked at, his whiskers magnificently curled and his bow-tie neatly tied. But he was a busy man, and it makes me laugh that Eugene painted him with his coat over one arm, ready for the ‘off’ when pressing engagements called him elsewhere. It warms me too because I know that while this was being painted, Peter and I would have been downstairs with Lizzie, doing business or admiring work in the gallery, all of us quite unaware that Trevor’s likeness was being captured high up in the attic.
Every time he was leaving the house, Trevor would glance up at the painting and address it cheerfully “What are you looking at you old bugger?”, and I’ve caught the habit because now I address it in exactly the same way.
One of the mysteries I find most fascinating about the painting is that great inexplicable swipe of red paint across him, like a flaming rainbow over his heart. That brush-stroke so perfectly sums up the man, a comet-tail flaming from his breast.