In June 1948, the artist H.H.Newton offered to pay for Richard to build a new studio.
Till then he had painted in a shed in the garden. Richard wrote in his diary, 'What an offer! And what generosity! I hardly know what to say to him about it.’ The plans were passed in the summer of 1949 and seven months later it was finished. It incorporated a room at the back of the house that had been Mavis’ schoolroom, but it extended further out northwards into the garden.
(Diary, 1st March 1950) '. . . the light is wonderful and certainly shows up the defects in my paintings.'
Ironically this luxurious gift came just at the time when Richard was feeling most insecure about what the future held. Only a few years before, he had worked in all weathers in his garden shed on the large wartime canvases which had cemented his reputation. But within four years after the end of the war he was beginning to struggle to sell anything. Worried, in 1949 he accepted two days a week teaching at Camberwell School of Art to be sure of a basic income. This meant he was denied working in his wonderful new space for two days a week for the next two decades.
By the end of the sixties, however, interest in his work started to return and he gave up teaching. Back in the studio full time he worked steadily through the 1970s, and, in the 1980s (when he was in his 80s) he was at his most prolific.
Newton's gift was his final studio, where he worked until his death in 1992.
But before this Richard had worked in several other spaces . . .
I imagine many artists start by working in their bedrooms - unheated, which helps explain the thick tweed jacket Richard is wearing. He must have painted carefully so as not to get marks on his clothes. His easel was crammed up against the bottom of the iron bedstead to be near the window, with a chair to hold his paintbox.
The secondhand hut bought for Richard by his father when they moved to Ilkley looks quite substantial and Richard obviously fitted it up with a stove (see the chimney) so he could more or less live in it. He soon gave up trying to paint up on the moors in winter after an occasion where he became so cold he couldn’t move. So he learned to do sketches and paint from them back at the hut.
After his first year at the Slade in London in 1925 Richard seems to have returned to Ilkley regularly to paint. He was certainly there for the summer of 1926 producing "my best work to date", and he also tells us that, because he was at home without his paints for Christmas later that year, he tried doing some drawings. When he took these back to London early in 1927 they created some interest and some sales, starting him on the path to his first solo show. When in late 1928 or early 1929 the Goupil Gallery offered a solo exhibition of drawings the following December, he returned to Ilkley again (being fed and looked after!) until he returned to London in October 1929 to work on the final sets of pictures in readiness for the opening of the show.
We do not know much about where Richard lived and worked during his first year at the Slade other than from the note about arranging lodgings the summer before he went. He also did some carvings in the studio of his friend John Bickerdike. He attended drawing classes at the Slade but not the painting classes as he disliked what he saw there. So the paintings he won prizes for in the Sketch Club competitions were either done at his lodgings or at ‘Bick's'.
He 'played truant' for most of his second year at the Slade, going to art galleries and concerts in London, painting in Ilkley, camping in Scotland and working on some drawings over Christmas and into the new year as mentioned above.
When Richard returned to London in early 1927 to try his luck, he found 'a kind of storeroom with a skylight' to live and work in. The space was not really satisfactory, so he quickly moved to a 'dark but spacious' basement flat in Redcliffe Gardens. He sums up living there when he says, 'I went home to Ilkley for Christmas and the warmth, comfort and good food made my London flat look very austere and monkish.'
He returned in the new year resolved to concentrate on drawing. He described the first time Eddie Marsh the collector and patron visited him there, hilariously documented in the autobiography.
Shortly after Richard's encounters with Eddie Marsh, his father came to London and visited the basement for the first time.
"He didn’t like it no doubt having Mother’s illness in mind, and suggested I should move. I was delighted to find an attic in Coleherne Road where I lived for the next five years."
It must have been better than his basement, because some years later he felt he could invite his sister’s pretty friend Mavis there to paint her portrait.
With works beginning to sell and a satisfactory place to live and work at last, Richard spent four months painting intensively and doing the rounds of the London galleries. Eventually the director of the Goupil Gallery visited him, and she in turn sent artist Eric Gill to give an opinion. Goupil offered him a exhibition of drawings to take place at the end of 1929.
From March 1929, Richard again stayed in Ilkley concentrating on work for the show, and returned to Coleherne Road six months later to prepare for the exhibition in December.
Mavis wrote in her memoir how she met Richard for the first time in 1932:
"On one of my evening excursions I met a lively Yorkshire woman (Evelyn Eurich). When she heard I was an Art lecturer she suggested taking me to meet her brother who was a painter. He lived in an attic-studio in Earls Court. We climbed 4 flights of stairs and were met by a quiet man with a gentle smile. Richard was very different from his boisterous sister but they were obviously very fond of each other. The studio was a trifle chaotic but we drank tea and talked for an hour or so. When we left Richard said to me “Would you come and let me paint your portrait?” I agreed and during the sessions that followed we felt we had got to know each other – not that he talked much as he painted but I usually stayed for a while after the sitting. When the picture was finished I felt that I would miss the quiet sessions."
After the success of the Goupil show, Richard turned his attention to painting. In 1930 probably, Eddie Marsh introduced him to the director of the Redfern Gallery, Rex Nan Kivell. 'He sort of threw things about the floor you know, and he said “Well, I don’t know. Show me some in a year’s time."'
Richard decided to start painting a subject he loved, but had not really explored since before his time at the Slade: the sea and ships. A year later, after mainly working on paintings of Dorset harbours, he showed this new work to Nan Kivell, who this time said, 'Oh, we must have a show of these', and offered him a solo exhibition in two years' time in 1933. Richard took a room by the sea in Lyme Regis which became his base and studio and continued painting Lyme Regis and other local ports. The light must have been good as he was right above the harbour, but he described working in absolutely freezing conditions. He returned to Coleherne Road in February 1933 to work on the final paintings before the show opened in March.
In September 1934, Mavis and Richard married. They built a house cheaply in the New Forest. Richard used a shed in the garden as his studio until 1950. He delivered all his paintings to the Redfern Gallery by placing them on the roof of their small Austin and driving them up to London.
Richard's daughter Caroline memories:
The White Hut seems to be a bit of a mystery as there are no photos of it. I remember crossing the garden to it, and climbing up a huge step to get in. It had large windows down one side, and was fairly empty to allow Dad to walk back from the easel.
It must have been very cold in there, particularly in the winter of 1947. It was heated by a couple of old fashioned Aladdin oil stoves, filled with pink paraffin, their glow reaching up through a pattern of holes in the lid. They were moved around with their woven wire handles. It was in this studio that he painted all the War pictures, and other great paintings besides. After the move to the new studio, the White hut was left to moulder, with plants growing up through its floor, and trees reaching over its roof. It turned into a dumping ground, but never actually fell down. It became just a memory.
Richard's nephew, Robin, came to Appletreewick in 1937 to see the Queen Mary in dock. Richard had helped to make a toy theatre for Robin.
"Sleeping by myself in a bed in the studio, I was given a torch in case I woke up in the night. However, I used it mostly to gaze at the wonderful pictures of ships and their rigging in one of Richard’s books. On my last morning I got up early to check whether the paint on the theatre had dried. When I told Richard that I had, he said “Have you been putting your paws all over it ?”
And this brings us back to the new studio paid for by Richard's friend the artist H.H. Newton. He moved into it at the beginning of March, 1950. It was far more spacious than the White Hut and had large windows which let in more light.
The studio being part of the house became more familiar to the family, and a great fascination to visitors. We have documented some of their memories and inspirations below.
Richard's Studio by Charles Shearer
Artist Charles Shearer was commissioned by art critic and curator William Feaver to make drawings of twelve artists' studios for Peter Moore's 'Project 8: Out of Line' at Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, in 1986. Richard was one of his selected artists and Shearer spent a day with Richard and Mavis. He managed to produce the atmospheric drawing below in the fading light of the late afternoon.
Andrew Lambirth sent us an email with an image of Charles Shearer’s drawing as he thought it might be of interest. We thanked him and wondered if it could perhaps be included in the website. The owners of the picture generously sent an image of the picture and Charles was enthusiastic too and so this section came into being, based around it.
Philippa wrote to Charles, "I love the picture. It reminds me of poems by Walter de la Mare, read to me when I was young, and the strong atmosphere they conveyed. It’s a lot to do with the rhythm of the trees.That studio must have devoured huge amounts of energy to keep it at all warm. Of course the windows were single-glazed and the floor was made of some cold hard asphalt-like substance. What was remarkable was that no liquid that fell on it ever dried up. I’ve never come across a similar floor, and of course it was freezing cold! "
Charles says of his studios project: "It was an interesting project and really a privilege to visit and spend a day or so in these artists' studios. Most, including your father and mother were so welcoming to me and that helped me to feeling as you said… relaxed in the space… also after a very nice lunch... I’m not sure if I had confidence... I was finding things out for myself as I went along... but in this particular case the window and the objects arranged against the glass with the trees filling the window space was what gave me an idea of the space inside being a part of the space outside… and of course the pressure of time to get something done in the short light left of the day."
Quite an Event - Richard's daughter Caroline remembers the new studio
The move to the new studio on the back of the house was quite an event. As children, we were always being told to be quiet, but we weren't entirely excluded, being allowed in to draw and paint, even while he was working. Unlike the White Hut, this studio became home to lots of bits of furniture, a divan bed, old cupboards, lots of books, and his carpentry bench. He allowed it to be used as a repository if any of us were moving house, and he looked after our numerous cats, while we were on holiday. The family was so important to him.
The radio helped to keep extraneous noises at bay. For him as a Yorkshireman, cricket was uppermost in the summer months, but on Sundays he used to listen to The Critics discussing the latest books and exhibitions.
In 1963, he virtually emptied the studio to make way for a family exhibition, celebrating my wedding, with all the trappings of a reception.
Richard in his Studio by his daughter Philippa
The studio was a haven of peace. You had to fight your way past the coats hanging on pegs under the stairs, through a narrow door and then the daily noises of the house were left behind. Dad worked through a haze of St Bruno Flake pipe tobacco, sometimes in silence, sometimes with John Arlott’s cricket commentary on the radio as background.
He hated extraneous noises as when we children climbed through the window upstairs to play on the flat roof of the studio. This would infuriate him, but his angry words were mild, in keeping with his Quaker upbringing. He was always encouraging us in our artistic attempts and it has always surprised me that, as long as I was quiet I was allowed to work in the other half of the room. The atmosphere of quiet concentration remained the same.
The room was untidy . . . papers spilled from his desk and dust was allowed to settle. Frames lent against the wall and awkward bits of furniture found their way into the space.
He depended completely on Mum to summon him for meals, but he did all the gardening for vegetables and always paid bills and dealt somehow with paperwork of this kind, never questioning whether the demands were accurate or not.
His diaries reveal that the house used to be constantly invaded by visitors and relations, and that he played in the village cricket team and cycled and drove for miles, visiting London very frequently. But he was beginning to conserve his energies by the time I came along. His daily walks with the dog and the frequent visits to Lepe Beach a few miles away became more of a routine, relieved by our annual trip to Yorkshire to stay with his youngest sister and family.
Richard making a frame
Crispin's photo of Richard painting Caithness with Star
In 1961 Dad painted this picture for a Shell Calendar. He was still using a mahlstick to help keep his hand steady for the detail.
The Rosoman portrait
The Dutch passion for still life paintings ultimately derives from the tradition of cultivating and gardening, which would infuse the positivity of rustic life in the quotidian one. This concept, which built upon Horatian ideals of contented human beings working in harmony with nature, leaves a rich heritage to modernity. The theme of nature’s power has been developed by the artist Richard Eurich, portrayed in a painting shown in another part of the exhibition, The Painter Richard Eurich in His Studio (1988) by Leonard Rosoman. Depicted by Leonard Rosoman in his studio, Eurich appears immersed in a space which vividly reminds the viewer of a greenhouse, rather than a traditional art studio. Eurich himself mostly painted nature in a visionary style, focussing on the structure of its components rather than on the overall setting, while rejecting innovative forms of art. His appreciation of nature is apparent in his painting The Critics (1956). Discarded and abandoned, a Cézanne-style fruit basket lies on the side table ignored by the critics, who instead focus on a mostly-blank abstract canvas, while Eurich himself converses with a nude model in the background. This painting illustrates how still life paintings created such a recognisable category often used by later artists, here as a highly iconic symbol referring to nature.
Eurich’s critics turn their backs on the simplicity of nature in order to judge the black and white canvas. Interestingly, the two items are placed as physically opposed and figuratively antithetical. As a consequence, the fruit basket and the canvas represent nature vs. modern art in general. The scene thus focusses on the antithesis between two different schools of thought – naturalism and modernism. The caricature highlights the neglect of nature against the obscurity of a modern art piece which requires a sophisticated interpretation. In so doing, Eurich subtly illustrated his enthusiasm for nature and his rejection of alternative artistic expressions.
Self portrait - The Studio Window (1963)
In later years Richard complained that the trees which grew up caused a green cast to the light. He never painted by electric light.