Still Life, with Pewter Mug
|This Still Life was painted way back in 1966, when my wife, Lorraine, and I were living in London. I hadn't seen the painting in decades.
Catherine Russell, a British actress, emailed me a photo of it and asked if it was one of mine. Catherine is the daughter of the late Nicholas Smith, a well-known character actor who played the part of Mr Rumbold in the TV series "Are You Being Served?"
Catherine wrote that the painting hung in the kitchen of Nick and his wife, Mary, all her life. I was able to give her a bit of background to its genesis.
When Lorraine and I first came to London in 1963, we soon found a bed-sit in Osbaldeston Road, Stamford Hill. Our room was just above the one where Nick and Mary dwelt. We soon became good friends. Mary and my beloved went off to work while Nick and I stayed home pursuing our separate artistic careers. Lorraine has never forgiven me for that, but Mary was a kinder soul and she indulged Nick.
Nick and I came to an arrangement. I gave him drawing lessons and he taught me the basic chords of the guitar. Nick was a Renaissance man. Apart from acting, he wrote poetry, sketched all his life (those drawing lessons must have done him some good), and he even acted as an organiser and office-holder of an actor's union.
In 1966, he asked me to do a still life for him. He loved the paintings of the Dutch still life masters so the painting he commissioned has a Dutch feel to it. The angle of view... the peeled fruit... the half full glasses of wine... and the pewter mug. As I recall, he provided some of the objects depicted.
The map on the wall pleased him especially as one of his forbears had been a sea captain. I remember Nick telling me that sailors were very superstitious. They would never say "we are sailing to Melbourne", as that would be tempting fate. Rather they would say "we are sailing TOWARDS Melbourne".
Nick passed away on the 6th December, 2015. Mary had passed a few years before that. Although we had lost touch over the years since we came back to Australia, I was lucky to get Nick's phone number and I was able to Skype him in early 2015.
It was good to hear his distinctive voice again.