Magazine article The Spectator

A Tale of Three Nonagenarians

Magazine article The Spectator

A Tale of Three Nonagenarians

Article excerpt

The year 1923 was a good one for British artists, witnessing the birth of three painters who became friends and whose work epitomises a rich strand of realism in the native tradition. Jeffery Camp was born at Oulton Broad in Suffolk, and studied at Lowestoft and Ipswich Art Schools before going to Edinburgh College of Art in 1941. Anthony Eyton was born in Teddington, Middlesex, and attended the Department of Fine Art at the University of Reading for a term, studying under Professor Anthony Betts. He served five years in the army before continuing his education at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts (1947-51). Patrick George was born in Manchester, studied at Edinburgh College of Art for a year (1941-2), where he met Camp, and then went into the navy. After the war he moved to London and continued his art school training at Camberwell, where he met Eyton. In 1949 he began teaching parttime at the Slade, and continued there until his retirement, as Professor of Fine Art and Director of the School, in 1988.

All three artists have evinced a profound commitment to teaching; Eyton working first at Portsmouth College of Art and Design and the University of Durham, before returning to Camberwell (from 1955) and starting at the Royal Academy Schools (from 1963). He has also enjoyed spells of teaching at Walthamstow and as far afield

as St Lawrence College, Kingston, Ontario, where he was Head of Painting (1969-71).

Camp moved from East Anglia to London and began to teach at Chelsea School of Art, and then the Slade, joining the staff in 1961. Camp's belief in the importance of instruction for art students led him to write and illustrate two self-help manuals: Draw:

How to Master the Art in 1981, followed by Paint in 1986. These books enshrine Camp's approach to teaching, dwelling particularly on the discipline of copying, and became international bestsellers. In an age when art students are more often than not encouraged first to express themselves and then to market the questionable results, there is still a healthy appetite for real teaching.

It is often said that those who can't face the insecurities of being professional painters turn to the stable career of teaching, but over the past century or so, teaching has been a legitimate part-time occupation for many dedicated artists. Not only did it provide a usefully reliable source of income, but it also kept its practitioners aware of contemporary developments in the art world.

Coupled with that, artists of Camp, Eyton and George's generation still experienced the call of public service and felt the need to give something back to society, which they could best do as practising artists by passing on the wealth of their knowledge and experience to subsequent student intakes.

In those days, before part-time staff had been done away with, art teaching had yet to become an over-bureaucratised desk job and professional painters had a lot to offer in art schools.

All three have enjoyed distinguished professional careers and continue to paint today, and all have shown or are exhibiting their work this year. Patrick George had a successful solo show at Browse & Darby in Cork Street in February and March, featuring a mixture of old and new work, from 1950 to the present. …

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