Noted artist and picture restorer
As Peggy Rose, she was reputed to be the best pupil to have come out of the Slade School of Art since Augustus John and Stanley Spencer. She was happy to have had the accolade, but happier still that her career trajectory plateaued early, sometimes alleged to have been the fault of her first husband, the painter Adrian Ryan. He turned her work to the wall when dealers or collectors called at their flat in Tite Street, Chelsea. Actually he was doing what subconsciously she wanted, for she was always frightened of the limelight and reluctant to be anywhere but safely in another's shadow.
He was four years younger than she was, and they met when she was showing him around the Slade on his first visit there in 1938. Vaguely she registered that he was "rather nice" in appearance - although by most accounts he was something of a sensation - before leaving on her award (20 no less) from Goya Paints to go to Paris and Brittany.
Their affair began the following summer when she revisited the school to see her old friends. They married in January 1941, nine months before he came into his sizeable inheritance. By then she was pregnant, although their boy-child was miscarried. Theirs was an unconventional marriage from start to finish - on the eve of their divorce, each involved with other parties, they none the less spent the night together - and their connection endured with agreeable tenderness. When Adrian Ryan died in 1998, Peggy said that she had lost her best friend. Although she was twice married, she retained his surname, which sometimes generated confusion with the faction of "Mrs Ryans" who succeeded her.
Her attempt to enter art school was made with drawings of Garbo, Joan Crawford and some of her brother sitting in an armchair. Professor Randolph Schwabe's gruff evaluation was that since the latter were from life they made her an acceptable candidate. In fact she drew so well that she stood out a mile. She was first to be awarded the Ida Nettleship Scholarship, for Domestic Employment (pictured right), a painting of her fellow student Dodie Masterman sewing.
Her claim was not to have done anything at the Slade during the first three of her five years there, except "coming alive, sitting in coffee houses, meeting poets from the university." She got engaged to a medical student, but couldn't go through with it. Her fluctuating painting intentions, "sometimes serious, sometimes not", were a result of her innate terror of rejection. She was safety- conscious above all, and it made her apt to disappear off in all sorts of directions and self-effacing in the extreme.
This did not work well for her relationships, nor was she aware of her own attractiveness. In the 1940s, Ian Fleming approached her on the quay at St Ives, flirted with her and chatted her up. Despite thinking how good he looked, she suffered a fit of shyness rather than follow it up. She and Adrian Ryan had come to Cornwall because of her involvement with the Perranporth Theatre, and an affair she was having with its sponsor, while her husband was engaged with a trio of his own. They lived in Mousehole, a location of lasting significance for him but not for her.
Peggy Rose was born in Golders Green in 1916, the daughter of Harry Rose, a prosperous jeweller who went into film production, and Kate Mansell, a couturier. …