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The Art of Richard Eurich : In Conversation with Philippa Bambach and Caroline Martin

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To coincide with the much anticipated release of The Art of Richard Eurich by Andrew Lambirth, Philippa Bambach and Caroline Martin talk to Meris Ryan-Goff about their memories of their father Richard Eurich's life and art. 

 
Photograph of Richard Eurich with palette, taken in the 1950s.
The Advertising Archives. Reproduced in 'The Art of Richard Eurich'.


-- What is your first or most vivid memory of your father, Richard Eurich’s, studio?

Caroline: My first memory of Dad’s studio was the “white hut” in the garden, a wooden shed with wide window on one side, and a steep step up into it. He worked here until the 50s, when a benefactor paid for an extension on the back of the house. The white hut gave him enough space to walk backwards and forwards, but was very basic, heated only by old fashioned Aladdin paraffin  stoves that fascinated me, with the “flower” pattern they cast on the ceiling, and the woven wire handles for moving them. He must have been very tough to endure winters, particularly the bad one of 1947.

The new studio soon filled up with junk, but Dad knew where everything was, under layers of dust. As it was part of the house, we knew we had to be quiet, and not disturb him, but we were always welcome to join him, doing our own painting or drawing.

When I got married in 1963, he cleared the studio for the reception. This required a huge effort, which I didn't appreciate at the time!

Philippa: To begin with I don’t think I was allowed into the studio except to take in a mug of tea. But when I was about 8, Dad gave me a little old palette, fixed a metal well to it and added a bit of turps and linseed oil. He then squeezed some oil paints for me (my choice of colours I think). I sat at a small easel in a corner of the studio and painted my first ‘proper’ picture. It was of a tree with a figure and a squirrel I think. Meanwhile Dad was walking up and down in front of his own easel in a bluish haze of smoke from his pipe, painting away, while on the radio John Arlott was giving a commentary on a cricket match. I have no idea what he was painting… I was much more interested in my own efforts. 

  

-- Do you remember the first exhibition of your father’s work that you attended?

Caroline: Generally, we didn't go to Dad's exhibitions, but his last was at the Imperial War Museum. He was very ill, and it was difficult getting him there, but I felt immense pride seeing these amazing war paintings, most of which he said he couldn't remember painting! It was lovely to see with what reverence he was held in by the assembled company.



Richard Eurich, The Great Convoy to North Africa, 1943
Oil on panel, 36.8 × 127 cm (141⁄2 × 50 in), IWM (Imperial War Museums). 
Ingram Collection: 121; © IWM. Reproduced in 'The Art of Richard Eurich'.

Richard Eurich, Fortresses over Southampton Water, 1943
Oil on canvas, 76.2 × 101.9 cm (30 × 40 in), IWM (Imperial War Museums).
Ingram Collection: 121; © IWM. Reproduced in 'The Art of Richard Eurich'.

 

-- Could you describe to us an average day in the studio for Richard Eurich?

Caroline: Dad had a definite routine for the day, changing a bit with length of daylight, but he needed this pattern. He said he didn't believe in waiting for inspiration, but keeping hand and eye in practice was important. But it wasn't technique that drove him, more an inner vision. We lived around this routine, with Mum dedicated to allowing him to create it. We used to holiday with his sister in Yorkshire for a couple of weeks every summer, but he was almost reluctant to go, saying he would forget how to paint.

Philippa: By the time I was born, Dad was middle-aged and had worked out a pretty strict routine for his life. He would get up, make the breakfast and then take the dog for a walk. Mostly he went up the road and onto the moor making a round trip coming back along another parallel road and through a friend’s garden, and then my grandmother’s garden ending up in our own back garden. After this he would take the shopping bag and go into the village to buy necessities and have brief chats with the shopkeepers. The rest of the morning he would paint. My mother would call him for dinner and he would emerge from the studio, sometimes harassed when things were not going well, sometimes quite pleased. Back he would go unless the light was terribly bad in which case he would do some gardening…. there was a large vegetable patch to tend to on the other side of some trees at the back, and the front garden was given over to very colourful flowers.

 
Photograph of Richard Eurich with his dog, Star, and the mural
'Whitby, North Yorkshire, to Represent Sheffield on Holiday',
taken in 1960-61. Photo by Crispin Eurich. Reproduced in 'The Art of Richard Eurich'.

 

-- How much of a presence was Richard Eurich’s painting in your childhood?
And how do you think it influenced or inspired you personally?

Caroline: Although there was this routine, I never felt he was distant emotionally. He was very caring, and I have a distinct memory of him gently removing splinters from my hand, his hands warm and strong, almost what I imagine healers’ hands to be like. He loved to hear the stories Mum was reading to me, “Worzel Gummidge” or “Tim and Lucy went to Sea,” or “The Little red Engine,” or Beatrix Potter. I think it fired up childhood memories and his imagination, and at this time he painted some wonderful pictures for a schools exhibition.

He made me a doll's house, and a shop, and a screen with door and window which could be erected anywhere, creating a world for the imagination.

Philippa: I was 11 years younger than my brother, and 5 years younger than Caroline. I think Dad made a lorry for Crispin and a doll’s house for Caroline, but he had run out of time and energy for such things when it was my turn. However I drew compulsively on every scrap of paper that was around and Dad was very encouraging and seemed to think everything I produced was of interest. In the evenings he liked to listen to concerts on the 3rd Programme. I was interested in music so in many cases (notably when Artur Schnabel played all the Beethoven piano sonatas) Dad and I followed the score while listening. He would make interesting comments that I lapped up. But there was another side to him…. he loved cartoons and funny programmes on the wireless such as The Goon Show and always liked a laugh. I am aware in retrospect that we as a family followed his routine. I invited a friend from school back home and she was distinctly uncomfortable with our quiet ways! He was a great letter writer and when I was at university or away in Tunis or Switzerland, he wrote very interesting, occasionally revealing and sometimes humorous letters to me.

 

-- Could you tell us about one of your favourite paintings by Richard Eurich? When did you first see it and why does it resonate with you?

Caroline: It's hard to choose a favourite painting. Some have memories of my childhood and are full of stories, but if I was on a desert island, and had to choose one, it would be “Dymchurch Beach” painted in 1974. He had a strong attachment to the sea, which I share, and some of his calm silvery images of the sea are like a meditation.
 

 

Richard Eurich, Dymchurch Beach, 1974,
Photo by Paul Carter / © Richard Eurich Paintings.


Philippa: One of my favourite paintings by him is Floodwater (1954-5). Our dining room was small and for several years it seemed to me (but was probably not that long a time) it hung on the wall right at my 8 year old level. It was like having a window out onto this turbulent scene. (I used to drag my bed under the window and have it wide open at night when there was a storm, loving rain on my face.) The aftermath of the storm here, the colour of the churned-up water, the broken branches swirling down towards the sea was very exciting. I envied the children on the bank being so close and being able to hear the torrent. I knew the extraordinary lacy pattern of the foam was exactly true to life and I believed in the experience.
 



Richard Eurich, Flood Water, 1954-5,
Photo by Paul Carter / © Richard Eurich Paintings,
Reproduced in ‘The Art of Richard Eurich’.


Another painting which means a lot to me is not in the book, partly because it wouldn’t reproduce well. Very dark and wild, it depicts a gesticulating figure in the midst of what appears to be the remnants of a moorland fire. I saw it in the studio in the 80s and asked Dad if I could have it as I liked it so much. He seemed surprised, but then he always appeared to be surprised that anyone should like his paintings! It feels very experimental with thick glazes which I had not seen before and which seemed to me to express an inner torment not borne out by his quiet presence in the outer world.
 

 

Richard Eurich, Man on Fire, 1985,
Photo by Paul Carter / © Richard Eurich Paintings.

 

-- How aware were you as children of your father’s war art, and of his renown?

Philippa: I really had no idea about the War art. I must have been familiar with reproductions of the Withdrawal from Dunkirk etc, but they didn’t seem real, just seeing them on a printed page. I remember a girl at school saying to me that my father was famous and could he draw a horse for her? I went home and delivered the message. Dad drew a simplified image of a horse for her which embarrassed me a bit (not exactly a Stubbs thoroughbred!) but she seemed quite happy with it.

In 1991 when the IWM put on a big show of Dad’s war pictures, I was completely overcome by these magnificent works about which I really had been pretty ignorant.

Caroline: I don't think I was much aware of his fame, but I was aware how much he was respected by everyone, from fellow artists and critics, to shopkeepers. Even in old age he was erect, and in hospital at the end of his life, nurses didn't call him Richard, but always “Mr. Eurich.”

 

-- Can you tell us about the experience of visiting your father’s childhood houses in Manningham, Bradford?

Caroline: In 2012, Philippa and I were invited to an exhibition at Cartwright Hall in Bradford, with the theme of children’s games, and Dad's painting “Gay Lane “was the centrepiece. We took the opportunity, while we were there, to search out his childhood homes in the Manningham area. We found the tall terrace overlooking the Park, which he described In his memoir, with processions and various celebrations taking place. It was while we were there that I was suddenly struck by the image of a small boy at the nursery window watching it all from above. So many of his paintings have this high viewpoint, and this sense of the “observer rather than participant.” He was a quiet , rather shy person, so he watched from afar, so to speak. The third house we went to, had been converted into offices, so we felt free to explore, and went around the back. This too was a revelation, as there was the flight of steps that figures in “ The Mummers,” with the window at the side, exactly as it appears in the painting. Dad had this extraordinary visual memory, and had obviously held a picture of those steps in his mind.

 



Richard Eurich, Gay Lane, 1952,
Photo by Paul Carter / © Richard Eurich Paintings -
Bradford Museums and Galleries,
Reproduced in ‘The Art of Richard Eurich’.

 

-- Do you share your father’s affinity for, and love of the landscape of the North of England? And for the sea?

Philippa: For our summer holiday we always went up to stay with Dad’s youngest sister near York. It was a farmhouse on an old aerodrome and I was enraptured by the smells and atmosphere of Yorkshire. Our outings were to wonderful rocky landscapes or ruined castles and abbeys all perfect for clambering over. Although I was used to the wildness of the New Forest where there was so much to explore, here there were so many more huge spaces and exciting hills. I loved the blackened stone of the older houses and it wasn’t till much later that I realised this colour was the effect of years of pollution from the ‘Satanic’ mills. Yorkshire still holds a sense of magic for me and I loved the three years I spent at university in Leeds, usually taking the bus out to Ilkley at weekends.

The sea means a lot to me too….(though I spent 3 years away from it in Switzerland), but it is not quite so important to me as wild landscape.

 
Last Look at the Sea, 1992
Oil on board, 44 × 59 cm (171⁄4 × 231⁄4 in), Private Collection, UK. 
Photo by Paul Carter / © Richard Eurich Paintings. 
Reproduced in 'The Art of Richard Eurich'.

 

-- In the book, Andrew Lambirth mentions how Richard Eurich’s diaries portrayed a vibrant social and family life in his young adulthood. Do you remember any friends, contemporaries, or even critics/gallerists in particular?

Philippa: There were frequent visitors to 'Appletreewick' (the name of our house). In retrospect I think most of them were Mum’s friends as she was very sociable. Once a week an eccentric couple called Cherry and Collyer Stanley-Little would come round for supper or my parents would go there. After supper Dad and Collyer would smoke their pipes and play chess while Mum and Cherry would talk non-stop in the sitting-room. Cherry would get very excited and asthmatic and have recourse to her inhaler as the discussion progressed. Our house played host on Wednesday evenings to the WEA lectures, and local people would drop in for ‘elevenses’ quite regularly. Dad’s friends from Camberwell came and stayed nearby for their summer holiday: the Dixons and the Chamberlains. Although Bernard Dunstan was his closest friend I only remember one visit…. he would normally to go to Wales or Italy for holidays and otherwise was very busy.

Looking at Dad’s diaries, there seemed to be a constant stream of visitors through the 30s and 40s but I think this activity slowed down a bit after the War.

Another factor that might have been an influence was his increasing deafness…. he found it easier to correspond than to converse.

Caroline: A particular friend was my Godfather, Rex Nankivell. I was born in 1942 at the height of Dad's association with the Redfern Gallery, of which Rex was Director. He was very helpful to Dad, sometimes paying for him and Mum to travel up to London to exhibitions, and it is a measure of their closeness that he was invited to be my Godfather. He always remembered special occasions, handed out the occasional white paper five pound note, and it culminated in a luxury pair of linen sheets as a wedding present. It was with a heavy heart that he ceased to be Dad's dealer, citing the move away from representational art to abstraction, and the need to remain commercially viable.

In a 1978 interview with James Mellen in the IWM archive Dad says: ‘…. we just managed to keep alive on what he {Rex} sold. And he was very very nice to us. He was a very generous man and he sometimes gave me paintings….’

 

-- Was art or art history a common topic of family conversation?

Caroline: There was no talk of Art in the house, but Dad wrote to me at university, with all sorts of insights into his interest in artists of the past, rather than that of his contemporaries.

Philippa: As literature and music were of great interest to me at one stage, we talked more about such things. Dad himself had always been obsessed with musical instruments (notably church organs) and this found an apotheosis in his spectacular painting ‘A Judgement’. Dad did talk about artistic influences... (Rembrandt, Piero Della Francesco, Cézanne, Turner and Christopher Wood) but was often quite scathing about his contemporaries. However he mentions in his diary a long conversation he had with Patrick Heron where he was surprised to find they agreed a lot on matters artistic whilst disliking each others’ work! Dad’s long correspondence with Edward Wadsworth was important to him and helped refine his ideas. He also did a lovely ‘mock-Wadsworth’ picture called ’The Hammock’ (1942).



The Hammock (1942) - The picture was inspired by Wadsworth’s
“Le Havre, France” in the Laing Collection, Newcastle.
Image from unknown catalogue cutting.

He was appreciative of abstract work but was of the opinion that in many cases it led to a sameness in style. His own voice (or vision rather) was more suited to a representational approach and he forged his own path in that way. Because of this he fell out of favour in the 60s though he experienced a fresh surge of life and his style was making strong changes at that time.

I think he felt that an artist was a person with a strong inner life and he was critical of those artists who proclaimed themselves too self-confidently or dressed the part in a loud manner. He was too shy to imagine such behaviour anyway and shrank away from that sort of thing. 

 

-- Your father was a keen sketcher – have either of you inherited this inclination?

Philippa: I have drawn all my life. Mostly figures and from my imagination, which always seems more interesting than reality! I enjoy the rigorousness of life drawing however, and battling with my inadequacies with regard to perspective. Painting is far harder but oil paint can cope with endless corrections!

 

-- It seems from this account of your father’s life-in-art, that he had a great energy – leading to prolific creation and ceaseless experimentation and observation. Is this an accurate impression?

Philippa: I like your provocative(?!) description of Dad’s artistic character…. Of course in many ways it must be a true description but it conjures up a lively and exciting personality whereas ‘dogged’ is more the word which seems to sum him up. This characteristic stood him in good stead for all the commissions he did where some research and accuracy were required. But once off the leash as it were, his ‘real’ work was definitely more strange, experimental and even puzzling. The periods of his life when he experienced a degree of freedom were in the 60s-70s sporadically and then in the 80s which turned out to be his most prolific decade.

Caroline: Dad had phenomenal energy and stamina. It came from a determination and single mindedness. He always said he was no good at school and had no choice other than to be a painter. He and Mum settled at 'Appletreewick', their home for life, and he dedicated himself to his work and his family.

   

 

'The Art of Richard Eurich', written by Andrew Lambirth and featuring a number of previously unseen works from the artist's estate and private collections, is the first book to provide an illustrated survey of Richard Eurich's entire career.
Order your copy HERE.

 

Hardback • 192 Pages • Size: 290 × 240 mm
170 colour illustrations
ISBN: 9781848221727 • Publication: September 03, 2020

 

View the full list of Autumn books in our catalogue HERE.

 

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