My Favourite Painting: Mark Coreth

'As a wildlife sculptor, I feel a huge affinity to my wild world and a closeness to Fred for that reason, too, although he’s evidently not swinging through the trees.’

Mark Coreth chooses Fred by Ruskin Spear:

‘Fred, as we have always called him, has hung over the fireplace at home since childhood days, first in my parents’ houses in Kenya, Ireland and Suffolk and now in our house in Wiltshire.

‘I knew him from my earliest memory and I hope that the same memories of him will pass down the generations to come.

‘As a wildlife sculptor, I feel a huge affinity to my wild world and a closeness to Fred for that reason, too, although he’s evidently not swinging through the trees ’

Mark Coreth is a sculptor of the natural world.

John McEwen on Fred:

Ruskin Spear was christened Augustus John Ruskin: Augustus after his father, a coachmaker, John after his maternal grandfather and Ruskin after a son of the family for whom his mother cooked. A self-styled ‘working-class cockney’, true to Hammersmith all his life, he specialised with wry good humour in local characters, pubs, snooker halls and west London street scenes. His chief artistic influence was the North London Camden Town School, principally Walter Sickert.

Polio permanently damaged one leg, which meant he attended Brook Green School for afflicted children, where he received a good art education. At 15, he won a scholarship to Hammersmith School of Art and progressed to the Royal College of Art (RCA). There, Sir William Rothenstein impressed upon students the importance of drawing.

Spear subsequently taught in London art schools, supplementing his income by playing piano in a jazz band. He was elected to the London Group in 1942 and the Royal Academy (RA) in 1954. From 1948 to 1975, he taught exclusively at the RCA, his embrace of urban life contributing to the birth of Kitchen Sink painting and English Pop Art.

His un-commissioned portraits of famous people stole the show at RA Summer Exhibitions. Churchill growled: ‘Go away, you horrible man.’ True Blue, of Margaret Thatcher, provoked her exclamation: ‘It’s terrible! Let’s get away from it as fast as we can.’

That he painted Fred similarly to convey a ‘description of personality’ was characteristic. Orangutans were artistic news after the zoologist Desmond Morris encouraged London Zoo’s Congo (1954–64) to scribble a picture, described as ‘lyrical abstract impressionism’, for BBC TV’s Zootime. Picasso hung a Congo painting in his studio.


My Favourite Painting: Lulu

Lulu chooses her favourite painting for Country Life.

My Favourite Painting: Lucinda Bredin

Lucinda Bredin chooses her favourite painting for Country Life.