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1903 - 1912
Early years
1913 - 1918
Boarding School and WW 1
1918 - 1920
Bradford Grammar School
1920 - 1924
Bradford School for Arts and Crafts
1925 - 1926
Slade School, London
1927 - 1929
Drawings
1930 - 1939
Paintings
1939 - 1945
War Artist
1945 - 1949
Commissions and Change
1949 - 1967
The Camberwell Decades
1968 - 1979
Revival
1980 - 1992
The Lepe Years
1992 -
Spreading the Word
Richard in 1936

Richard Ernst Eurich (1903 - 1992)

This timeline of Eurich's life draws heavily on his diary and links to resources on this site and around the web, his work and his autobiography.

1903


Dr and Mrs Eurich with their five children (Richard in the sailor suit). Christmas, 1910
Image © Richard Eurich Paintings

Born in Bradford, Yorkshire, 14 March 1903, the second of five children, his German born father, Dr FW Eurich, a GP and bacteriologist at Bradford Council's Pathological and Bacteriological Laboratory, his mother a Yorkshire Quaker.

Lived at 7 Lindum Terrace, Manningham Lane, Bradford.

1905

Richard's father appointed as bacteriologist to The Bradford Anthrax Investigation Board, a sideline to his growing consutling practice. The board were trying to find ways to eliminate anthrax, the cause of countless deaths among wool sorters.

c1905

Father always welcomed us when we visited him in his laboratory and answered any questions about what he was doing or about any apparatus with pleasure.

. . .  He had incubators in which he developed cultures of Anthrax, spending fifteen years working on samples of wool from all parts of the world. He hoped to be able to eliminate the infection and at the same time tried to find a means of disinfecting wool already imbued with the deadly germ . . .

1908

Richard's father appointed Professor of Forensic Medicine at Leeds Medical School.

September 1908

 

At five, being of school age, I joined my elder sister at the Kindergarten [at Rossfield School].

It may seem strange to relate that all I ever learned at school was taught me here. Four years at the boarding school was scholastically barren and of the two years at Bradford Grammar School, the second year only was fruitful in that I learned to like Shakespeare.

December 1908

Moved to 4 Marlborough Road, Manningham, Bradford.

1910


Richard painted the memory of his visionary experience in 1947, which he called ‘Remembrance of Things Past’
Image © Richard Eurich Paintings

When Richard was 7 he stayed with a great uncle. He was sent to a local farm for eggs and had a mystical experience there, the inspiration for his 1947 painting 'Remembrance of Things Past'.

August 1910

Moved to 8 Mornington Villas, Manningham, Bradford, the house with the steps that occur in some works such as the two "Mummers" paintings: The Mummers (1951), The Mummers (1952)

[unknown date]

Father's mother had evidently become aware before anyone else that pictures meant something to me. One Christmas she sent me a picture.  I thought there must be some mistake because children were not given pictures in frames. It was by the German painter, Defregger, of a group of children bringing a sick dog to a doctor's house. I liked it very much.

1911


The Queen of the Sea,1911 painted in 1954. Richard brings to life the memory of that holiday in Whitby with hallucinatory clarity
Image © Royal Academy of Arts

Visited Whitby in the summer of coronation year, an event remembered in his painting 'Whitby, Queen of the Sea, 1911' (1954).

1912


Richard and his father posed for a photograph in about 1913
Image © Richard Eurich Paintings

Richard started to have violin lessons.

So at the age of nine I was inspected by a lady violin teacher who examined my hands and said I would do. A three-quarter-size violin was procured and a start was made.

Photo: Richard playing the violin with his father holding the music.

Richard visited his grandmother in Saxony, Germany

. . . my memories of that time are chiefly of unending marching of soldiers with military bands.

Moved to 8 Mornington Villas

[The house] hadn't any gas. For a moment we were amazed and then Father, having had his little surprise, explained that it was lit by electricity.

Drawing of a Zeppelin and a sinking ship done at boarding school to impress his fellow pupils
© Richard Eurich Paintings
1913 - 1918

Boarding School and WW 1

 

When Richard was ten, his parents decided to send him to boarding school: 'I have an idea that as I was so backward they considered I would be completely left behind if I went to Bradford Grammar School, which was very large and catered …

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When Richard was ten, his parents decided to send him to boarding school: 'I have an idea that as I was so backward they considered I would be completely left behind if I went to Bradford Grammar School, which was very large and catered for bright boys.’  Among the unhappiest years of his life, they proved to be a certain testing ground for his character. No good at sport, no scholar, with strange parochial behaviour and clothes, and above all at the start of the First World War, half German, his talent for drawing saved him from being bullied.

But he didn’t manage to avoid the vindictive headmaster with his lust for beating boys and his glorified jingoistic announcements. Even the Sketch Club was a disappointment till the master who took it realised Richard’s seriousness. He lent him oil paints for the first time and gave him his first individual lesson, which included the ringing statement: “Put your paint on and LEAVE IT!”

He had a great interest in organ registration (as other boys might collect train numbers) and used to visit local churches to make notes. When he returned home he was allowed to start having organ lessons where he showed a keen aptitude. He also begged to have some canvas boards and oil paint and tried out this new medium on portraying the family pets, including his favourite Flemish Giant rabbit, Big Ben.

This picture of the Cow and Calf Rocks at Ilkley (1921) shows how at 18 Richard’s skill had developed
© Richard Eurich Paintings
1918 - 1920

Bradford Grammar School

 

After the years of misery at boarding school it was decided that Richard should go to Bradford Grammar School.

School still proved to be a desert except that he developed an appreciation of Shakespeare. Eventually however, his pictures came to the notice of Mr …

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After the years of misery at boarding school it was decided that Richard should go to Bradford Grammar School.

School still proved to be a desert except that he developed an appreciation of Shakespeare. Eventually however, his pictures came to the notice of Mr Pearson the gym master who was an amateur artist who gave him his second lesson echoing the words of his other teacher: “Put the paint on and leave it.”

Richard was invited to join the Pearson family holiday that summer (1919) at Sandsend near Whitby to paint every day. 'The glimpse of the sea…. was the climax of the feeling that the chains of the war and school had been thrown off.’ He painted about seventy pictures which he later destroyed, but the whole experience of the daily proximity of his great love, the sea, and the concentration of learning, encouraged by Mr Pearson, became a lasting and significant legacy.

Early next year, Richard went to see Mr Sichel, director of Bradford Art College and it was decided that he should go to Art School. His father agreed to give him a year’s trial. He was granted a scholarship where he was asked to draw a plaster cast of a lion’s head. He was much pleased to be leaving school.

That summer together with his father and elder sister Margaret he went to Zittau in East Germany to visit family whom he had last seen in 1913 before the War. 

Richard also visited his English cousins in Weymouth where he spent hours sailing with them or on his own watching the sea crashing on Chesil beach and trying to catch the action of the waves in his sketches.

View across to Portland in typically murky weather
© Richard Eurich Paintings
1920 - 1924

Bradford School for Arts and Crafts

 

Almost immediately Richard felt disappointed in the School of Art. No one there was interested in being a ‘fine artist’ but all were hoping to make a living in commercial art.

Meanwhile his mother’s health had broken down as she was suffering from TB …

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Almost immediately Richard felt disappointed in the School of Art. No one there was interested in being a ‘fine artist’ but all were hoping to make a living in commercial art.

Meanwhile his mother’s health had broken down as she was suffering from TB and soon after returning from the German holiday, in early 1921 the family moved from Bradford to the purer air of Ilkley for her health. This was some cause for anguish, as Richard loved the city of Bradford and all the bustle and activity. He had a to fight a battle with his parents to be allowed to bring his favourite rabbit which leaped in the air with delight when first allowed the freedom of the garden.

Soon Richard discovered a wealth of new images in the quarries and moorland to inspire him. 'The smallness of the house persuaded Father to purchase a second-hand hut to stand in the garden. This he allowed me to use as a studio and bedroom combined. I soon had it fitted up and decided I would almost live in it as far as possible.’

It was to this hut that at the end of the allotted trial year at College that he had been promised, that the tutor at the College came to see Richard’s work and assess whether he should go in for teaching or painting. On seeing this latest set of pictures, the instructor said to Richard's father: 'Well, that knocks teaching on the head.’ Richard's father allowed him to start his second year.

It was then on an art club expedition that Richard discovered Farnley Hall near Otley in Wharfedale. He was bowled over by the collection of Turner watercolours. ‘Turner became my hero and I bought an old bicycle and explored Wharfedale trying, in many cases, to locate the exact spot where he must have sat to make his drawings.’

After an experience of painting in the snow on the moors and finding himself unable to move, completely numbed with cold, he decided to make drawings on the spot and construct paintings from them back in his own studio. One of these exhibited in a local art club earned him his first press review.

1923 and 1924 seem to have been filled with intensive work but no formal tuition. He was completely self-motivated and felt a need to prove himself worthy of the trust granted him. In January 1924 he visited Torquay with his mother, the cold sea air being good for her lungs. Interestingly this trip gave rise to an example of a sketch he made there being used by him for a painting 55 years later (Storm, Torquay).

His hard work paid off: 'It was a great day for me when I was accepted by the Slade School in London and was awarded a special grant by the Drummond Foundation for the further education of Bradford Grammar School boys.’ That summer the family stayed for a few days in London as Richard had never been there before. Lodgings were found and the museums and galleries explored.

A new departure in imaginative composition, but painted in the privacy of his digs
© UCL Media Services
1925 - 1926

Slade School, London

 

Richard was not lonely on arrival in London. An older friend, John Bickerdike, a sculptor who had settled in London was likewise from Bradford, and he and his wife seemed to be happy enough to let him visit and work in their studio almost …

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Richard was not lonely on arrival in London. An older friend, John Bickerdike, a sculptor who had settled in London was likewise from Bradford, and he and his wife seemed to be happy enough to let him visit and work in their studio almost daily! Bickerdike introduced Richard to a wide range of art beyond Europe, notably Indian sculpture and also the work of Archipenko, which was very different from the classical sculptures being studied at the Slade.

Richard started in January 1925. Within a couple of weeks: . . . 'when I got to the Slade school and mentioned Turner they all looked down their noses. Turner, I discovered, was a dirty word. It was rather strange.’

He felt his life drawing needed to improve. It was not something he had had much experience of : 'Poor old Tonks is very dissatisfied with the standard of drawing at the Slade, in fact he is raving.’

Meanwhile in his lodgings he was working on a painting of ‘The Deluge’ about which an almost daily account of his trials and tribulations fills his diary. In the end he managed to finish it in time to submit it to the Sketch Club where it found favour with John Wheatley a teacher at the Slade.

He also recounts experimenting with small sculptures: a head of Bach in stone, a little wooden torso etc.

However at the school the main work was life drawing at which he was making progress: 'Worked in life class all day. My drawing seems to have been most successful there. In fact I am told Tonks deigned to look at it.’

In May he and Bickerdike went to see Epstein’s Rima, which was receiving a lot of hostile comment. Bickerdike wrote a positive letter to the press about it and later they both went to visit Epstein and were shown his studio…. ' it was then, by the light of a candle, that we had a preview of the masterpiece known as “The Visitation” which he was working on.’

Through June Richard won prizes constantly, both for his life drawing and also at the Sketch Club. ‘I sent in a landscape or two and one of these called forth the only memorable saying by Professor Tonks “This student is being influenced by painters who have not been dead long enough to be respectable”. I had found Cézanne. Tonks could not understand Cézanne.’

In his second year he says he ‘played truant’ quite a lot, but the time was filled with going to the British Museum, to organ recitals and concerts, to exhibitions and also cheap seats at the Old Vic to see Shakespeare plays. He went back home to Ilkley during the summer where he "produced quite a number of paintings", and in the autumn went camping with a friend in Scotland.

His health was variable during these years in some cases possibly owing to the poor diet during the boarding school years. He returned to Bradford once or twice for check-ups but was always anxious not to miss the delights of London.

A young girl reclining on heaped pillows similar to his later portrait of the sick Mrs. Green
© Robin Maggs / Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales
1927 - 1929

Drawings

 

On leaving the Slade Richard entered into a fairly hard time surviving at first in a very unsuitable attic and then in a basement room in London, painting, drawing and walking everywhere to galleries trying to get sales.

He exhibited a drawing at the …

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On leaving the Slade Richard entered into a fairly hard time surviving at first in a very unsuitable attic and then in a basement room in London, painting, drawing and walking everywhere to galleries trying to get sales.

He exhibited a drawing at the New English Art Club but it didn’t sell. Richard did not have his paints with him when he went home for Christmas 1927, so he worked on some drawings over the holiday period and into the new year. He took these back to London and when he showed them to galleries they started to take some interest.

A friend who worked at the Treasury put him in touch with Mr Stocks an art collector who worked there. He had a couple of Duncan Grant pictures in his office. When Stocks visited Richard, he said that Edward Marsh should have a look. He was a well-known art collector and patron of young artists and also a director of the Goupil Gallery and private secretary to Winston Churchill. Richard recalled Marsh’s momentous visit when he arrived after some formal function. He bought a small painting but was not encouraging.

However he contacted Richard later, having bought one of his drawings [Bedroom Interior aka Nude Boy in a Bedroom (1928)] at St George’s Gallery. 'It is very delightful and has the added charm of colour. I snatched it away from an old gentleman who asked for it a minute after I had told Howell [the gallery owner] I would have it! I only hope he will have bought another instead. I should like to tell you how much I enjoyed your drawings - an achievement.’

Richard’s drawings at this time held more of his own particular character and style than his paintings where he was still trying to forge his own identity. Marsh put him in touch with the Goupil Gallery, which took some drawings and managed to sell a few. The director told Richard that Eric Gill was coming to visit him. Gill didn’t seem to like his paintings but a few days later the director wrote saying they would give Richard a one-man exhibition in 1929 . . . of drawings.

About this time Richard's father visited his basement flat for the first time. He was not happy with the conditions there and persuaded Richard to move. He found an attic flat four flights up in Earl's Court. Richard's father gave him an allowance of £10 a month, half of which went on rent. The light from a window overlooking the garden was perfect. Richard lived there for the next five years. It was also where he met his future wife when his sister brought Mavis Pope on one of her visits. 

He had six months to deliver these drawings, each one taking at least a week to produce. His mother enticed him back to Ilkley for most of this time so he could work uninterrupted and be fed and looked after. He worked to a strict regime.

. . . 'Ever since that year I have stuck to this working plan. That is that painting must have ‘office hours’ like any other job. A visitor is not welcomed as an excuse to down tools and any domestic job that requires attention must wait.’

In early December his mother went into a sanatorium in Somerset. She invited Richard to visit and also urged him to see a Mrs Green who was in the last stages of TB. She wanted to talk about art. So he duly went along to her room. They had a lively conversation and she left a strong impression on him. Back in his room he painted a portrait of her from memory, which is now in Southampton City Art Gallery.

The Private View for his Goupil show was on the 5th December, 6 weeks after the Wall Street Crash when nothing was selling in London galleries. There were two other shows at the Goupil. His exhibition was in the first room through which people had to go to see the others. In this way his work attracted even more people some of whom found his drawings more interesting than the shows they had come to see!

However he did sell a good number of drawings, many of which went to patrons like Marsh and Sir Michael Sadler, who later placed these pictures in public collections round the country. And at this private view, he was introduced to Christopher Wood, the painter, whom he admired greatly. The memory of that short conversation and Wood’s advice ‘to paint what you love and be damned to fashions which come and go’ remained with him for the rest of his life.


© Richard Eurich Paintings
1930 - 1939

Paintings

 

Following Richard’s success at the Goupil, Edward Marsh then introduced him to Rex Nan Kivell at the Redfern Gallery. Richard  later described Rex’s visit: . . . he came to see my work and he sort of threw things about the floor you know, …

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Following Richard’s success at the Goupil, Edward Marsh then introduced him to Rex Nan Kivell at the Redfern Gallery. Richard  later described Rex’s visit: . . . he came to see my work and 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’s eyes had been badly strained by the concentrated work he’d done for the show of drawings and his oculist had told him to change his way of working or risk lasting damage to his eyesight. So he decided to return to painting ships and the sea and seaports. He visited Weymouth again and other small ports along the coast.

He was aware of the warnings he had been given about fashion, and sea paintings were not fashionable. After a year however, Rex was invited to see Richard's marine-themed work and said 'Oh, we must have a show of these!’ and a solo show at the Redfern was booked for April 1933.

Meanwhile Richard’s younger sister Evelyn who was a matron at Guy’s Hospital introduced her friend Mavis Pope to Richard. Her matchmaking idea worked . . . Richard painted Mavis' portrait and through this and their conversations, they fell in love. If he was to marry, the success of the Redfern show became even more critical in proving his worth!

He spent the winter months in Lyme Regis (November 1932 to February 1933) working every day, counting how many pictures he had painted, often in freezing conditions. His diary for these months express hard non-stop work, apart from reading a few books and trying to play the clavichord when the sea wasn’t too noisy!

His brother Hugh stayed with him for a few nights in January. He describes the arrival of a ship loaded with cement in the dark of the early morning. The ‘Mary Eliza’ from Hull. Richard’s later beautiful painting of this unromantic boat became one of his most popular images.

Another day in January he reported: 'Simply bitterly cold. Frost and east wind. A dismal morning. Got up rather late but managed to get on with work. Had to have an overcoat on, hands quite numb with cold, feet too.’ By early February he counted 40 paintings done in the space of about 12 weeks. The Redfern exhibition took place at the end of March. It did reasonably well and Rex went on to give him 15 more shows through to the 1950s.

He and Mavis planned to get married, helped by the offer from Richard’s mother to give them £700 to build a house in the New Forest (an area Mavis was familiar with) and much cheaper than London. The family tale goes that the sale of ‘The Blue Barge’ to the Contemporary Art Society in August 1934 for £100, enabled them to marry.

In October 1935 their son Crispin was born, but they were still living hand to mouth financially.

They were a couple of miles from Southampton Water, so he and Mavis saw the liner Queen Mary on her 'trial run’, then in dry dock and her glorious maiden voyage, all of which he painted with enjoyment.(April/May 1936). In May 1937 his picture 'Dry Dock Southampton' (1935) was accepted for the Royal Academy summer exhibition.

Early in 1938 Richard’s parents came to live near them in the village. The idea was that the climate on the south coast would be beneficial for his mother.

In 1938 Richard and Mavis made a puppet theatre and glove puppets. There is a description of them going to give a performance to a couple of hundred guides in the local W.I. Hall and ending up running there with all the paraphernalia tucked under their arms because the car conked out as they set off.

Richard had another Redfern show in May 1938 and Mavis started a little nursery school at the back of the house for local children the same month. She was also much involved in the big Pacifist Convention in Southampton with the star speaker being George Lansbury. The worry of impending war was depressing picture sales.

Mavis started  to give a series of WEA lectures on art.

New Years Day 1939, Richard finished a composite picture of Southampton which was exhibited at the Redfern and then sent to the International Exhibition of Paintings at the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh USA where it was sold.

Richard made a 5-day trip in May to Antwerp on the SS Harrogate, returning via Dunkirk and St Malo. 'Started painting Flushing (20x24) for a show by French and English in Australia’. But probably because of political unrest the picture remained in the UK being shown twice at the Redfern. He started to paint ‘Antwerp’ and he also had sketches for a painting of Dunkirk before the outbreak of war. (The last 3 sentences might be better in the timeline?)

This journey would prove useful the following year.


© Manchester Art Gallery / Bridgeman Images
1939 - 1945

War Artist

 

War was declared on 3rd September1939. Within days Richard was learning to milk cows at the local dairy farm.

He was scheduled to have a December show at the Redfern but Nan Kivell got in touch asking him to have it in November as …

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War was declared on 3rd September1939. Within days Richard was learning to milk cows at the local dairy farm.

He was scheduled to have a December show at the Redfern but Nan Kivell got in touch asking him to have it in November as "no one else is having one”.

In Southampton the ships were all being painted dark grey and the place was full of troops ready to go to France. Richard dug an air raid shelter in the garden as part of the regulations for Mavis’ little school. (Insert Crispin’s ‘air raid shelter’)

In January 1940 he was ‘making observations of a scene of barrage balloons on Southampton Water, all to be done from memory owing to restrictions.’ The WAAC (War Artists Advisory Committee) commissioned him for the first time on April 1st: for “a couple of pictures for £50 the pair, of fishing boats!”

On 4th May he sold ‘Antwerp’ to the Tate for 100 guineas and also ‘December, Work Suspended’ to Hull for 200 gns.

The WAAC was pleased with the two pictures he had produced for them and he asked if he could paint the embarkation of Dunkirk. They had already commissioned another artist but agreed on 5th July to pay Richard 50 gns to paint this subject. The ministry had hardly any photographs to help him, but he started painting nevertheless. After that he was commissioned to paint an air battle over Portland, and in December was officially appointed war artist to the Admiralty. A succession of commissions followed and meanwhile he was digging the garden and producing lots of vegetables for the family. 

In February 1942 a daughter Caroline was born. Mavis had had a nervous breakdown during pregnancy on hearing of the sudden death of her sister, and suffered post-natal depression for many weeks. Rex from the Redfern Gallery was asked to be Caroline’s godfather and was pleased to accept.

In April Richard was elected ARA (Associate of the Royal Academy).

In the midst of all the pressure of the war work Richard was painting a few pictures for his own edification. 'Framing is a problem as professional framing is not allowed. So I am either cutting old ones down, or making them out of odds and ends of scrap wood from the Power Boat Co.’ It is amusing to think of him driving to London with large works for the Admiralty tied to the roof of his small Austin car. Still short of money he and Mavis started keeping chickens.

In the autumn of 1943 he painted a picture for a friend’s son of a train, which Crispin stated was the best picture he had done! This gave him the idea for an exhibition of pictures for children at the Redfern. At the end of February 1944 he mentioned the idea to them: 'Saw Rex at the Redfern . .  I showed him some of the paintings for children, he likes them but doesn’t want them at the Gallery as they would only sell!’

Richard continued working on his commissions for the WAAC.  On June 6th 1944, D-Day, he wrote: ' Started work on Invasion Preparations (30x50) Everything very quiet here! No restrictions.’ The end of the War was in sight. However later that month he noted: 'Moved Caroline’s cot to under the stairs as there are so many alerts . . . Painting all day but tired from lack of sleep. Rain after long drought!’ But out of this all came one of his major pieces, The D-Day Reconstruction triptych, which allowed his imagination some leeway.

December 1944 saw the birth of their daughter Joanna, but spring 1945 brought two tragedies. Richard’s father died in February and barely two weeks later little Joanna died of meningitis. Richard wrote to the Admiralty to apologise for his delay in delivering the paintings they were expecting.


© unknown
1945 - 1949

Commissions and Change

 

Richard's 'Paintings for Children' show at the Redfern Gallery opened in April 1945, right on the heels of the family tragedies in February and March.

He thought that making paintings with children in mind might help reinvigorate his imagination - 'I had always wanted …

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Richard's 'Paintings for Children' show at the Redfern Gallery opened in April 1945, right on the heels of the family tragedies in February and March.

He thought that making paintings with children in mind might help reinvigorate his imagination - 'I had always wanted to indulge in free fantasy and humour occasionally and this seemed to me a good way of liberating it besides giving a freedom and opening up ideas in my serious work.'

Richard was feeling exhausted. He wanted "a slight change after four or five years of painting at really considerable tension . . . I think perhaps the need for certain exactness in the war paintings, in spite of the imaginative ones that I did, began to pall on me to a certain extent  . . . I think I wanted things to be more imaginative but I hadn’t seen my way to it . . . various family things had happened like my father dying and a small baby daughter dying within a few weeks of each other, and I felt a change somehow was necessary . . . and I did change.

Richard's efforts were rewarded: "I think almost every one . . . was sold".

As the War staggered to an end, Richard felt the tension drain away and a new energy emerge where he would not have to work with such accuracy and let his imagination roam free! However there was the small matter of having to earn a living. He was fortunate in that the war work had built him a reputation, and he was in demand, but he now faced a stream of commissions most of which entailed the same degree of accuracy and truth to detail he was hoping to move away from.

First amongst these commissions, one that occupied him for six months, was the knighting of the provost of Eton on the chapel steps by King George VI. The event had already taken place in March 1945. A little while later Colonel Astor on behalf of the Old Etonians asked him if he would paint the occasion. Five hundred pounds had been raised towards the project. Richard duly visited the provost and at some point also visited the Queen and princesses at Windsor Castle to make notes about their dresses and have lunch with them.

It was a gruelling commission and he had to imagine the event. He managed to lighten the task by including a few mischievous choirboys in the crowd of two hundred: 'I introduced quite a number of humorous things in it, like a small boy with a catapult in the front row, for instance, who was being restrained by some other boys, and one or two Etonian hats that were being knocked off. None of this was objected to, I’m very glad to say, by the officials or Royalty.’

Meanwhile in January he had received a commission from Kenneth Harrison for two pictures of King’s College, Cambridge to occupy him in the summer. Nevertheless his diary shows that through March he somehow was painting his own ideas from imagination and trying to shed the habit of tight realistic detail: 'I find I may be too much occupied with technical problems and must broaden out. Try to get the feeling of wonder, how else can one expect to move a beholder if not moved oneself?'

The Eton picture was finally displayed at the RA at the end of April 1946 where it was spotted by Vincent Massey, the Canadian High Commissioner and chair of the Tate's board of governors. Massey had been at Balliol College Oxford, and wanted a painting to fit a specific wall in the college which was to show the quad during wartime when servicemen and women came there for short study periods. As in the Eton picture, a few formal portraits were required which Richard always found difficult.

But on June 1st, 1946 the Mayor of Westminster rang Richard to ask him to paint the ceremony where Churchill was given the freedom of Westminster. This wasn’t finished until the end of March 1947 and he had found it a hard and unsatisfying slog. The end of September finds him working on the painting in London to improve the portraits and then finally varnishing it on the 8th October.
Back on 4th March, Philippa was born: the 2nd anniversary of the death of Joanna. Six months later Mavis fell out of the loft, breaking her elbow in many places and in hospital for a week. Crispin was old enough to stay at home but various neighbours took the girls for a few weeks.

In November, free from commissions for a while, Richard painted with a renewed confidence. On 1st January 1948 having been paid for the Balliol picture Richard noted: ‘I can work all this year on my own which I haven’t done for about 8 years. The interior of King's College Chapel is the only job I have in front of me.’

However, when he took his recent pictures up to the Redfern in March they were greeted with less than enthusiasm: 'What I can’t understand is that they say the development is surprising. I am quite unaware of it and can’t see what the difficulty is. They seem to think in the atomic age everyone must do abstract work! But what reasoning there is behind this I don’t know. It seems to me to be a shelter for the incompetent and shallow-minded.’ Later he admitted that he liked some abstract art but was angry at the assumption that there was no room for anything else.

In June, Richard's old friend H.H. Newton offered to pay for a new studio for him. Later in the year he met up with another friend Leonard Daniels who had recently been made head of Camberwell School of Art. Leonard offered him a job there teaching one day a week. It wasn’t until the following year when he suggested two days a week that it became a viable option given the cost of travel and income tax. With a family of three children the cost of living was becoming more of a problem.

In March 1949 Richard had another show at the Redfern but only sold four pictures. However the following month the artist Robert Buhler wrote to him saying his work at the RA summer show was much admired:' He also says the general feeling among the painters is that it was refreshing to see someone working in their own way.’

In late September Richard spent three days in Yorkshire, staying in Malham, exploring Gordale Scar and the Cove: 'Looking down into the Cove, had the most frightening sensation of being sucked in, and retreated at once.’  Several paintings were subsequently based on the sketches done there. On September 23rd he wrote, "To Gordale Scar in the morning and made a drawing at the bottom looking up through the watercourse. A long upright panel might be made interesting" [Gordale Scar(1950)].  On the 26th he started teaching at Camberwell.


© Christie's
1949 - 1967

The Camberwell Decades

In 1949 the artist William Coldstream who had been a teacher at Camberwell Art School left to become professor at the Slade. Other staff had moved on too. This created a gap for the principal of Camberwell, Leonard Daniels, to offer Richard a couple of …

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In 1949 the artist William Coldstream who had been a teacher at Camberwell Art School left to become professor at the Slade. Other staff had moved on too. This created a gap for the principal of Camberwell, Leonard Daniels, to offer Richard a couple of days teaching each week. Two days made it worthwhile financially, so on the 26th September 1949 Richard started at Camberwell. The first  day of helping about 50 students with life drawing was a bit daunting. But he wrote that ‘the evening class had about 15 students which made things easier, and found them rather an interesting lot.’

Richard later said that the experience of teaching revived him considerably and eventually pushed him to be a bit more experimental himself. He acknowledged that he wasn’t really cut out to be a teacher, ". . .  it was not teaching but encouragement that the students very often required. I found that if I allowed students to talk it helped them very often. I would just listen and make a few remarks here and there." A few years later filling in a form about student aims he said, with the agreement of his colleague Philip Mathews ". . . that we believed in students painting still life etc., with a view to discovering the design as they went along. That composition was something to be found out and not superimposed by theories."

In March 1950 the new studio was finally completed. At first he was a little wary, '. . . the light is wonderful and certainly shows up the defects of my paintings.’ (!) But he soon grew into it and loved it.

In March 1951 the Redfern held a show of seventeen of his recent pictures but only one sold, and that one went at half price in sympathy for an admirer of his work who could not afford the full amount. He observed wryly: 'The Society folk who are holding shows in the adjoining galleries are doing well after having thrown expensive cocktail parties.’

A couple of months later Richard put four of the pictures from the Redfern show into the RA summer exhibition, and two of them sold. But it was a new painting he submitted that really made a stir. 'A Judgment’, a cascade of musical instruments, was a great critical success and also sold. A few days before the opening he was "asked by ‘The Sphere’ [magazine] if they could reproduce my painting of ‘A Judgment’ in colour, full page. I said 'yes!'. "

1951 was the year of the Festival of Britian. To mark the occasion Bradford City Art Gallery decided to mount an exhibition of works by Bradford Artists, 1851-1951, the biggest part of which was to be a retrospective of Richard's work. He made new paintings for it, drew from his own store of works and many were borrowed from public and private collections. The RA show now out of the way he had the final preparations for the Bradford show to get on with. "[I] motored to Bradford with fourteen paintings, and had the experience of seeing about seventy of my paintings of the last 15 years together! What stands out a mile is that those which have been kept under glass, are in superb condition. Others are filthy, cracked and damaged."

He spent several days cleaning and varnishing. The show was opened on the 1st June (1951) by J.B. Priestley, an old Bradfordian. At the Town Hall 'a certain ‘stickiness’ in the air as a result of JB’s new novel in which he guys town clerks etc.!' At the end of the day 'I presented him with a pipe. He replied that he knew if he came often enough he would get something! He purchased the little ‘Angry Clown’ saying "That’s what we all are.’ " 

The next day, over in York, Richard went to a dress rehearsal of the York Mystery Plays where his brother-in-law John Kay acted Caiaphas the High Priest. It helped provide material for his great triptych of the York Festival which he painted 5 years later.

About this time he received an odd commission from the novelist Evelyn Waugh to paint a picture called ‘The Pleasures of Travel 1951’ depicting the interior of a Dakota plane on fire and about to crash. Waugh already had two paintings forming a series, ‘The Pleasures of Travel 1751’ and 'The Pleasures of Travel 1851’ by a painter called Thomas Musgrave Joy. In each case the travellers were encountering disaster in one form or another.

Richard had embarked in the early fifties on a memoir of his childhood which broke off in 1929 at the time of his first solo show. He was always fascinated by the especial vividness of a child’s experience, the freshness and intensity. He said that a recounting of later life tended to become a litany of name-dropping, so he did not continue his story. He submitted the book written in longhand (!) to Evelyn Waugh who apparently was encouraging and said he would write an introduction but perhaps unsurprisingly this never came about.

Richard had a painting accepted into a Royal Academy Summer Show for the first time in 1937 and he was elected an Associate in the 1942. Although a lot of the politics at the RA could be maddening, Richard rather enjoyed the jovial meetings and schoolboy humour. It was also a brilliant place to be able to sell work to a wide audience at a low rate of commission and it carried prestige, so he was delighted when In April 1953 he was elected a full member of the RA.

By 1956 Richard was beginning to have health problems again. On 29th January he wrote: 'On Friday developed most painful rheumatics and sciatica in the right leg, could hardly move. Difficulty getting in and out of bed, had to ask for assistance when coming down stairs.’ This was probably the beginning of hip trouble that dogged him for many years. It was relieved by a Southampton osteopath who enabled him to walk the Forest again, and eventually he had a hip replacement.

Despite these problems he visited Rouen in 1956 where he had been invited to paint a picture of the re-dedication of the cathedral following its destruction during the war. He in fact painted several Rouen pictures that year.

The commissions Richard received in the fifties and sixties were mostly different in nature from the ones right after the war, which came mainly from the establishment reasserting itself. He was approached by more commercial clients such as the Post Office (GPO), Shell and Esso Petroleum.

In 1960 he was asked to do two huge murals for the new Teaching Hospital in Sheffield. He had never learnt to ‘square up’ in order to transfer the same proportions from a small sketch to a larger surface so he called on his elder daughter Caroline (who was studying art and had learned this skill) to help him. Closer to home, Lord Montagu asked him to paint two versions (day and then night time with fireworks) of the celebrations following the return of Francis Chichester in Gipsy Moth after her round the world trip in 1967.

His last main show at the Redfern was in 1958. Rex Nan Kivell, the director and his long term friend, was unable to sell his work, so Richard resigned his commission with Rex. He was now for the first time without a London dealer.

The commissions and the teaching helped keep Richard going, but sales of his personal work were very patchy, hardly half a dozen in some years according to his sales diary. Collectors were not so interested in represenatational work as they had been. He had mellowed a bit since his early statements about the rise of abstract painting in the late forties, but that shift was still a factor. He explained in his 1978 interview for the Imperial War Museum, "There was a great change to abstract painting which interested me to a certain extent but not for myself. I mean I like abstract paintings but there seemed to be such an enormous amount of them that might have been done by almost anybody and it spread right around the world. Everything got rather the same. I felt that I’d rather stick to what I wanted to do, which might be unfashionable, and oddly enough things do go round in a complete circle."

Richard was not unaffected by the new waves in art. By the sixties his teaching methods at Camberwell appear to have become more relaxed. He started to fill his own sketchbook with many little studies of the models and sometimes of the students at work, apparently leaving the students to get on without his supervision. He said of the Camberwell job: 'I wasn’t very good at teaching but I learnt a lot there about painting. And I think it began to revive me, you know, considerably.'

The next generation of painters was coming along without any preconceptions. He assimilated some of the students’ fresh approaches to art. For example, Richard's 1959 painting 'The Garden' seems to announce a new interest to experiment with colour and to rethink his sometimes highly detailed approach to painting. Some of his sixties paintings are remarkable for an often startling departure into strong hot colours, but also for their very different styles, keeping up his reputation as a "curiously unpredictable" artist.

Crispin, Caroline and Philippa all got married in the sixties so he felt a certain freedom from responsibility. In 1967 after nearly nineteen years of teaching at Camberwell, Richard's wife Mavis agreed readily that he could retire from the job and get back to full-time painting.

The time had come to find a London dealer again. He signed up with Dudley Tooth at the Arthur Tooth and Sons gallery. Richard records that he " . . .  had built up quite an accumulation of work . . . and when Tooth's saw it, they were quite excited about it. It was sort of, I won’t say old-fashioned, but perhaps new in an old kind of way. And they felt it was a good thing." Richard raided the loft, full of years of unsold pictures, ready for his first solo show in ten years.


© Richard Eurich Paintings
1968 - 1979

Revival

 

After leaving Camberwell, Richard continued to do some teaching at the RA schools but that very soon came to an end. 
In February 1968 Arthur Tooth gave him a solo show. Having a London dealer and actually selling pictures again after a 10-year hiatus …

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After leaving Camberwell, Richard continued to do some teaching at the RA schools but that very soon came to an end. 
In February 1968 Arthur Tooth gave him a solo show. Having a London dealer and actually selling pictures again after a 10-year hiatus gave him renewed energy at the age of 65.

He and Mavis began regular visits to Lepe Beach which was  just 5 miles away. It looked across the Solent to the Isle of Wight opposite and on the left the shipping for Southampton and the oil refinery manoeuvred round to go up Southampton Water. Richard found the oil tankers most interesting. He said  ' I do find the big tankers . . .  extremely beautiful. . . . the scale of them with other shipping as they emerge up through mist . . . they seem absolutely enormous."  He himself acknowledged that the days of the romantic graceful ships were gone.

Richard’s grandson later took up that theme: '. . . It seemed to me that the war was the time where Papa’s understanding of the sea matured; before the war his images were filled with comfortable renderings of beautiful ships in the last days of sail, close to home and safe haven in port. With the war the brutish conquest of the sea became more apparent with dark smudges battling elemental forces with no sight of home or respite. The rusty utility of naval and merchant ships [he] subsequently portrayed with the insight of personal experience, the romantic association gone.'

In 1970 he experimented with the odd feeling of seeing the sea tipped up as a vertical plane, with the horizon like the top of a wall, and he painted strange nude figures clambering on it. There is a playfulness but also a sense of a metaphysical exploration pervading many of these pictures.

Richard was also a great letter writer and had several long correspondences. There were the early ones with his patron Sydney Schiff and with Edward Wadsworth but also a lifelong one with the teacher who had inspired him at Bradford Grammar School, Sydney Pearson, and later with his friend and fellow RA, Bernard Dunstan. As Richard was visiting London less frequently, Bernard kept him up to date with all the local scandal as well as continuing their discussions about art.

Richard was proud of the quality and standard of work that Southampton Art Gallery had acquired over the years and he sat on the selection committee. Margery Clarke of the First Gallery, Southampton, noted that . . . 'He was a man of few words and those would be to the point.  As chairman of Southampton Art Gallery’s Smith Bequest Selection Committee, he would sit surveying what was on offer whilst the others continued to discuss them.  Then he would just say:  “We’ll have that one… ”, which they did.’

In 1971 he and Mavis visited Philippa who was living in Switzerland with her husband Manfred, a doctor at the Kinderspital, Zürich. Although only there for a few days, 6 paintings  came out of that visit, a very different landscape from his other work.

Tooth’s gave him 2 more solo shows up to 1973 and a few paintings in group shows till the gallery closed shortly afterwards when it was suggested he move to The Fine Art Society. His first solo exhibition with them took place in 1977.

In 1973 Philippa and Manfred had moved to Leeds but within a few weeks Manfred died of cancer. Philippa with a 2-yr old and a one month old baby came to live with Richard and Mavis. They built an extension for her where she lived for the next 3 years and amazingly Richard kept solidly painting through all the upheaval.

Crispin was also ill though he was mis-diagnosed for many years. Eventually it was found that he had a brain tumour. He had an operation but the cancer was too advanced. He was nursed by Richard and Mavis till he died in 1976. Richard gave his much-treasured Christopher Wood painting to Southampton Art Gallery in memory of Crispin.

Through the 70s the human figure on a beach either nude or clothed, in mixed and often strange groups, became a new theme to explore. His former attention to detail became less marked and the brush strokes more lively.

Then, with the help of the FAS, on November 29th 1979 a major retrospective exhibition organised by Bradford Art Galleries & Museums opened in Cartwright Hall, Bradford and toured through 1980 to Southampton, London and Glasgow. 112 paintings were on show.


© Richard Eurich Paintings
1980 - 1992

The Lepe Years

 

1980 was an eventful year. There was the large touring exhibition from Bradford and The Fine Art Society both in Glasgow and London and ending up at Southampton Art Gallery, but also a solo show at the Ash Barn Gallery with over 70 pictures. …

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1980 was an eventful year. There was the large touring exhibition from Bradford and The Fine Art Society both in Glasgow and London and ending up at Southampton Art Gallery, but also a solo show at the Ash Barn Gallery with over 70 pictures. This gallery near Petersfield run by Werner Haub was a great success for Richard. It was a pleasant run in the car, not like the slog to London, and he sold well there as it attracted a clientele from London and the south of England generally.

In 1980 he painted ‘Weymouth Bay’ which the following year won the Hunting Art Prize. He was the first winner of this prize, which ran for 25 years before it relocated to Houston, Texas.

About this time Richard underwent a hip replacement operation at the Treloar Hospital near Alton. He seemed to be recovering well but suddenly suffered a thrombosis and was sent to Basingstoke Hospital as an emergency. Luckily he pulled through and still had a few years of walking on the moor.

The last 12 years of Richard’s life were among the most productive. Of course there are many small pictures but he also produced several quite monumental works (Tall Ships, The Rehearsal, Burning Bush, Moment of Sadness).
The sea dominated his output during these years but some themes appeared which were new.

Mavis regularly drove to visit the Greenham Common women usually taking a pot of stew to keep them going. In 1985 Richard painted a unique bird’s eye view of one of the main gatherings there (possibly the ‘Embrace the Base’ event in 1982) with police round the perimeter.

Mavis’ closest friend Vivien Cutting died one day while bathing at Lepe and though a young man noticed she was in difficulty and tried to rescue her, she was already dead when he got her to the shore. Mavis was there, waiting on the beach with Vivien’s little dog and the shock and grief meant no trips to Lepe for a while.

At this time Richard produced a lot of paintings of the trees in the Forest and in the back garden, and though the sea pictures continued as well, Richard’s store of impressions didn’t need constant ‘topping up’ by visiting Lepe.

Vivien’s death may have triggered fresh grief over the death of Crispin and in 1982 he painted a Lepe scene with a Crispin-like figure reclining on the beach, camera nearby, called ‘In Memoriam Crispin.'

Another new theme was a series of small, freely painted heads of people, about 10 of them (Sick Girl, Studious Youth, The Surgeon etc) all roughly the same size.

The back garden was pretty wild and Mavis loved having the occasional bonfire there of all the dead wood. Richard painted a very typical picture of her next to a small bonfire with a column of smoke spiralling up, surrounded by leafy bushes and trees.

In 1983 the Fine Art Society gave Richard a solo exhibition called ‘Eurich at 80’ which was very successful. And then in 1984 Richard had another show at Ash Barn, again exhibiting about 70 pictures. It was as if he was having to paint quite fast to fulfil demand! 

In recognition of life’s work he was honoured with an OBE in 1984. He enjoyed his short audience with the Queen whom he admired for her ability to ask questions of him with apparent real interest and grace.

In 1988, no doubt in the run-up to the following year’s doctorate from Bradford, John Sheeran at Bradford Art Galleries and Museums commissioned Leonard Rosoman RA to paint Richard’s portrait. He visited him and painted him at the time of year when all the tender plants had been brought in to over-winter in the studio. Richard had apparently just come in from the garden and was still in his rubber boots. It looked like the portrait of a gardener-artist!

In 1989 he was awarded a D. Litt by Bradford University and he seemed to enjoy the honour and the dressing up in robes and mitre board. A eulogy was read out to sum up his life’s achievement, which also referred back to his eminent father’s work against anthrax, that scourge of the sorters at the wool mills in Bradford.

That same year Richard and Mavis were in their little car driving one stormy day along the road which runs parallel to the shore at Lepe. Suddenly a huge wave engulfed the car and it stopped. Richard was 86 years old but managed to stagger to dry land while some youths carried Mavis to safety. The local newspaper even carried a photograph of the scene. Richard painted the event and called it ‘An Unusually High Tide.’ He included the car stranded in the foaming water, but the following year he painted it out. It’s a shame that there is no photograph of the original version.

Alongside these ‘eventful’ pictures Richard was developing a more minimal approach: his so-called ‘empty pictures’. In an interview for the IWM he described the return to sea painting during the last couple of decades of his life. He mentioned ships and people but said ‘…very often it’s the sea alone…’ The elemental sea could fill the picture without need of incident or focus point. These paintings are indeed amongst his most powerful.

In September 1991 The Imperial War Museum gave a retrospective exhibition of Richard’s war paintings, which he managed to attend even though he was already ill with cancer. It was truly amazing to see these works which represented a whole era of his life but which he admitted in the earlier IWM interview: 'It’s a curious thing about the war paintings. They seem a different sort of part of me sort of altogether somehow. Well, I feel that the work that I did during the war I feel now is quite a different part of me to what I am now.'


© Bradford District Museums and Galleries /REP
1992 -

Spreading the Word

After Richard died his dealers The Fine Art Society continued to show and sell his work. They put on a number of exhibitions themselves and acted as advisers to others.  Over the years there have in fact been a steady stream of Eurichs shown in …

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After Richard died his dealers The Fine Art Society continued to show and sell his work. They put on a number of exhibitions themselves and acted as advisers to others.  Over the years there have in fact been a steady stream of Eurichs shown in exhibitions large and small put on by many galleries. Two were major retrospectives, The Edge of all the Land, in 1994 in Southampton, Bradford and Ipswich, and the centenary show Richard Eurich (1903-1992) Visionary Artist in 2003 in Southampton, Bournemouth and London.

Over time, especially after Richard's wife Mavis died in 1996, Richard's daughters Caroline and Philippa, advised by friends and other Eurich enthusiasts, became increasingly involved in managing and promoting Richard's legacy and took on the work of dealing with the estate collection.

In 2001 they commissioned Richard's grandson Rufus Biggs, to design and manage an official website. It was much admired and was a key factor in the name of Richard Eurich becoming better known. A little while after, they responded to a friend's suggestion that there should be a centenary exhibition and supported the intiative of Professor Edward Chaney and MA student Christine Clearkin to bring together the Richard Eurich (1903-1992) Visionary Artist exhibition and book.

This led later to Christine Clearkin's massive project to build a catalogue raisonné, which in turn, when it seemed impossible to get it published, led them to commission Lund Humphries to publish a critical monograph by Andrew Lambirth The Art of Richard Eurich and support Philippa's son Daniel and her partner Paul to modernize the website and create an online version of Christine's catalogue. They have also fairly recently appointed Waterhouse & Dodd  to represent the estate.

Margery Clarke of The First Gallery, a long time promoter of Richard Eurich and his photographer son Crispin, urged Caroline and Philippa to propose a Eurich family exhibition at Southampton City Art Gallery. They did and it was accepted. Covid 19 has delayed plans for this.

It all helps to spread the word about Richard's respected place in modern British painting. 

See more about these topics on the "About the website and catalogue" page [not live yet].