Obituary: Rosalie de Meric

WHEN ROSALIE de Meric's father called her a coward he killed fear in her for the rest of her life. She steered her own singular course as artist and teacher in a life that would bring her into contact with many notable painters and writers.

From her first solo show at the Brook Street Gallery in London in 1940 through a widespread exhibiting career, de Meric emerged as an artist with a unique vision, who sought out and recreated forms with a quality of strangeness and a hint of the supernatural. Her drawing and use of colour had a dynamic energy. Although she went through radical changes of style over some 60 years, a trademark of her work was the simplification of forms to express their essential quality, transmitted to the viewer with a directness and power that were part of de Meric's character.

Her life could have been settled and unremarkable. She was born in Weymouth, Dorset, in 1916. Her only sister, Vivienne, died aged 24. Her mother Blanche's family had been made rich by Holloway's Little Pink Pills, which meant that Rosalie's father, Victor, need never work. Apart from three years as a tea planter in Ceylon, he lived as a gentleman.

As a child, through a family connection, Rosalie met Francis Bacon, then an aspiring painter, the beginning of a lifelong friendship. When she determined to train as an artist, however, her parents refused to fund her. She left home at 18, moved to London equipped with several smart frocks and trained as a typist.

In the evenings she studied to be an artist and moved into Bohemian circles. She shared a house with a mistress of Elias Canetti, the Bulgarian-born, Vienna-educated Jewish writer who from 1938 lived in Britain.

De Meric had earlier had some tuition in England and France from the dynamic, pioneering Futurist- influenced watercolourist and lino-cutter Claude Flight. From 1936 to 1939, in the evenings she attended Westminster School of Art and was instructed by Mark Gertler and Bernard Meninsky, who urged a need for sound draughtsmanship. In the war she worked as a typist for the Admiralty and as a nurse, continuing her studies at St Martin's and the Central Schools of Art, going on to Medway School of Art, Rochester.

Just before the Second World War ended, her life changed radically as she married the poet Thomas Blackburn. When introduced, Blackburn, a keen mountaineer, asked this young woman with remarkable green eyes if she could climb. Her innate fearlessness prompted her to say no, but she would try. They went to Wales and, because de Meric had the wrong boots on, she climbed in socks in the rain over some of the area's most difficult and dangerous routes. In his poem "Mountain", Blackburn commemorated

the unrepeatable

Days scaling slab and pinnacle, vernal, evergreen

Of our beginning: Scawfell, Tryfan, Craig-Ysfa, Great Gable

And the nights of our shared darkness that lay between.

Married and living in London, de Meric again established contact with Bacon. She, Bacon and Blackburn formed a close trio. The savagery underlying Bacon's painting influenced de Meric's, as it did Blackburn's poetry. Bacon and Blackburn were much attracted to each other, and were enthusiastic Soho drinking companions.

The marriage was turbulent. Blackburn's drinking and drug- taking were part of the problem, and they separated when their only daughter, Julia, was 12. She was to become the writer Julia Blackburn, whose novel The Leper's Companions is now shortlisted for the Orange Prize.

De Meric's early work had been landscape, followed by a series of imaginative allegorical paintings reminiscent of Balthus, work shown in a retrospective at Leeds University in 1956. Blackburn had a Gregory Fellowship there. The influence of Terry Frost, Alan Davie and Harry Thubron, who were also in Leeds, contributed to de Meric's changing to Abstract Expressionism, pictures shown at the Grabowski and Drian Galleries in 1960-62. For two successive years, in 1972-73, de Meric worked with Thubron on a colour course in southern Spain, which led to involvement with Hard-Edge Geometric acrylics for a decade, shown in London and elsewhere. In 1977 she settled in Westleton, Suffolk, in 1983 returning to landscape painting.

Between 1963 and 1977, Rosalie de Meric had lectured at Sir John Cass, the London College of Printing and Croydon College of Art, but she remained unsatisfied with her achievements. Archaeological drawings done during summer vacations in Romania, Spain, Italy and Greece were published in specialist journals. She also produced four silkscreen editions marketed in London Galleries. To finish her education, she completed an honours degree in fine art at Norwich School of Art (1984-87).

She remained fearless. Finally in hospital with leukaemia, she declared, "It's very difficult to die, but I'm doing well. I'm even rather enjoying myself."

David Buckman

Rosalie de Meric, artist and teacher: born Weymouth, Dorset 5 November 1916; married 1945 Thomas Blackburn (died 1977; one daughter): died Halesworth, Suffolk 2 April 1999.

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne with his Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actor

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rowan Atkinson is bringing out Mr Bean for Comic Relief

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project