'Its alabaster stillness, like a dream caught in time, appealed to my middle-class imagination'

A Game of Patience, 1937, by Meredith Frampton RA (1894–1984), 42in by 31in, Ferens Art Gallery, Hull, East Yorkshire

Maureen Lipman says:
This picture hangs in the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull. My friends and I were obsessed with the History of Art lecturer there and spent a suspicious amount of time—er…—researching in the gallery. I always liked this painting. Its alabaster stillness, like a dream caught in time, appealed to my middle-class imagination. She was and is everything I’m not. Enigmatic. But perhaps I could play her one day. It is somewhere between painting and sculpture and and it fascinates me.

Maureen Lipman is an actress, columnist and comedienne.

John McEwen comments:
Meredith Frampton had his first exhibition at the age of 88 and at a national gallery, the Tate. Among the reasons for this perhaps uniquely late recognition were his obsessive attention to craft, which meant he could take a year to paint a single portrait; his reliance on portrait commissions; his classical truth to formal clarity, which placed him, along with such fellow meticulists as Gerald Kelly, James Gunn and Tristram Hillier, at odds with fashionable modernism; and failing eyesight, which, although serviceable, prevented him painting a picture for the last 37 years of his life.

Frampton was born at 32, Queen’s Grove, St John’s Wood, NW8, then a neighbourhood of successful artists such as his father, the internationally famous sculptor George (later Sir George) Frampton RA. Yet, despite the privileged artistic milieu of his upbringing, as a child he was, in his own words, ‘more interested in motor cars, machinery, screwdrivers and spanners’. After school at Westminster, he trained at the St John’s Wood art School and then the Royal Academy Schools, before embarking on his career as a portraitist in a studio next to his father’s.

Although his art is the embodiment of stillness, whereas his father’s invariably gloried in movement, they shared an obsession with craft and both were members of the craft society, the Art Workers Guild.

Frampton’s aim was ‘to paint the sort of picture that I would have liked to own’. His model here was Miss Margaret Austin-Jones, aged 23. The landscape is Wiltshire, where he settled after the Second World War, the harvest scene echoed by conveniently durable apples, corn and budding poppies.