Cecil Jospé

Artist and photographer

The artist Cecil Jospé became a photographer in middle age. Her children having grown up, she saw it as a solution to the problem of what to do with the next part of her life. After considerable professional success - which included two one-woman exhibitions at the Photographers' Gallery in Great Newport Street, London, in 1983 and 1985 - she began to turn away from the camera and took lessons in watercolour painting instead. Once again she enjoyed success, and she was elected to both the New English Art Club (2003) and the Royal Watercolour Society (2000).



Cecil Weiner, photographer and artist: born 15 August 1928; married Roger Jospé (two sons, one daughter); died London 17 May 2004.



The artist Cecil Jospé became a photographer in middle age. Her children having grown up, she saw it as a solution to the problem of what to do with the next part of her life. After considerable professional success - which included two one-woman exhibitions at the Photographers' Gallery in Great Newport Street, London, in 1983 and 1985 - she began to turn away from the camera and took lessons in watercolour painting instead. Once again she enjoyed success, and she was elected to both the New English Art Club (2003) and the Royal Watercolour Society (2000).

Born Cecil Weiner in New Jersey in 1928, she was named Cecil after an aunt who was a judge in Oakland, California. It was thought that the ambiguity of the name would offer her an advantage in life. In 1951 she gained a BA in Art History and the Theory and Practice of Drawing and Painting from Radcliffe College (Harvard University). In the early 1950s she lived in New York. This was the time of the great Abstract Expressionists but although their influence could sometimes be found in Cecil Jospé's work, she remained a representational painter.

With her Belgian husband, Roger Jospé, she moved to London, where she was to live for 30 years until her death. Marriage and children prevented her from working as a creative artist but in 1979 she began to study for a degree course in Professional Photography at the Polytechnic of Central London. Study also provided a lifeline to the world outside.

Yet when at last she was liberated from her role as a full-time housewife, it was domesticity which provided her with inspiration for her pictures: the most mundane objects could also be objets d'art. What man would photograph an ironing board or a stack of shirts? And, even if he did, would he photograph them with such irony? These household objects - arranged with an instinctive eye for order - told the story of her life.

Gradually she stopped working as a serious photographer and returned to earlier interest in drawing and painting. From 1985 to 1997 she attended classes at the Slade and the Royal College of Art. Even after she had received the accolade of election to professional art bodies, Jospé had no qualms about still attending painting courses when she thought they might help her in her work. If this signified modesty, it also showed an intellectual curiosity. If she regretted not having received a full technical training in her years at Radcliffe College, she had learnt

the crucial "economy of means" - never to do too much, never to overelaborate. To find elegant solutions, as a mathematician might say, to the problems of a representation truthful to the light, colour and spatial relationships of the subject.

Stylish and articulate, Jospé also served for many years as Secretary to the Analytical Psychology Club of London, for whom she designed a club logo and letterhead. Many eminent Jungians were entertained by the Jospés in their house and garden - and it was typical of Cecil's fastidiousness that she would devise marbled paper covers for works on Jungian psychology when she found their original covers unsightly.

Jospé had her first operation for cancer in 1992 but she endured its recurrence as well as the side-effects of the treatment with great courage and openness. She continued to paint as long as she was able, and her final pictures, exhibited at the New English Art Club and the Royal Watercolour Society, were nearly all sold. They were studies of peonies, their purple buds and the white flowers fully opened against a dark background.

Simon Fenwick

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