Artist loses his life's work in studio fire

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The Independent Online
THE ART world is to stage an exhibition of Patrick Procktor's remaining works to help him rebuild his life after a fire at his home. The 63-year-old artist was said to be completely devastated yesterday after his entire life's work - bar a few pieces - went up in flames.

Watercolours he had painted of his late wife, Kirsten, were reduced to ashes along with works by friends such as David Hockney. Hockney said yesterday that he had written to his old friend to express his "personal, deep upset" over the tragedy.

Procktor's home in Marylebone, central London - once owned by Sir William Coldstream, his principal at Slade art school - was a shrine to his art. One of the bedrooms was decorated with a mural of flowers, each one painted by close friends such as Hockney, R B Kitaj and Frank Auerbach.

Norman Ackroyd, a fellow Royal Academician, said last night: "I am devastated by the news. I really know how he must feel. He has lost so many mementoes of his artistic life. Financially it is a disaster but emotionally it is devastating.

"You cannot insure a collection like that. It would be absolutely destructive financially, and you cannot replace the works anyway."

An electrical fault is believed to have started the blaze which gutted the house last Saturday. Procktor's son, Nicky, 26, managed to escape from the top-floor room of the four-storey Georgian mansion on to a neighbour's roof.

All that remained of Procktor's work were a few dozen drawings from the Sixties, when he was a major part of the burgeoning art scene along with his contemporaries, such as Hockney, Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud.

Six paintings currently on exhibition at the Royal Academy summer show, as well as works held at his gallery, also remain.

Friends have said they will stage an exhibition in the autumn to raise money and help him rebuild his life. "We found some work locked away in a chest. I was amazed to find it preserved among the ashes," said Richard Selby, director of the artist's Redfern Gallery.

"He lost some very important pieces, including a large painting of Princess Margaret and some intimate watercolours of his wife. They were just charcoaled remains. You cannot replace them.

"He is in shock and has gone away to try and rebuild his life. We will be holding an exhibition of the remaining work to try and raise some funds," he added.