Dick Gilbert: Painter inspired by the landscape and coastline of Cornwall

The painter Dick Gilbert belonged to a coterie of Cornish-born and -bred artists who proved a visually distinctive minority within the mid-century St Ives "school". These included Peter Lanyon, Michael Canney, Margo Maeckelberghe, the potter William Marshall and before them the naive painters Alfred Wallis and Mary Jewels. Though the irresistible Cornish landscape and haunting genius loci provided overriding source material for virtually all Cornish modern artists it is not easy to identify a single or coherent stylistic complexion unique to this native enclave other than an emotional and frequently expressive semi-abstract landscape painting and an improvisatory or makeshift approach to the materials closest to hand.

Dick Gilbert was born in 1935 in Hayle, Cornwall, on the north, Godrevy side of St Ives Bay. He attended the local Bodriggy school where schoolboy exploits included playing rugby competitively, winning a swimming trophy and acting as patrol leader for the Hayle scout troop where his passion for hiking and exploring took root.

Like his lodestar, the revered Peter Lanyon, Gilbert joined the RAF where two years' national service led to the rank Leading Aircraftman. During this time Gilbert's artistic leanings came to the fore and when he returned home in the mid-1950s the local St Ives art colony, led by the internationally established artists Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth, was in its heyday.

The close community of artists was centred on the Penwith Society which offered sanctuary of a social and professional kind for artists in frequently impecunious circumstances. Gilbert became a full exhibiting member and also enjoyed solo exhibitions in the capital at Denis Bowen's New Vision Centre Gallery in Marble Arch and at the Rawlinsky Gallery during the 1960s. He briefly attended the Regent Street Poly, but was essentially self-taught, his gestural paint-handling, wild and energetic use of charcoal and general informalism linked to naturalism.

Despite its abstraction this informalism never lost sight of site-specific strips of the Cornish coastline. The unmistakable topography of Hayle and Gwithian dunes stretching to Godrevy lighthouse recurred throughout an oeuvre in which energetic and spontaneous paint movements conjured the passing clouds, fugitive light, changing sea conditions or bird flights. His "Bird Flight Down a Valley" (1970) related to his observations of migrating birds above his beloved Gwithian dunes and emulated Lanyon's vision of landscape as a vital and changing phenomenon. In 1967 he told the journal Cornish Review: "Cornish landscape exhibits a constantly changing occurrence, it has a large visual depth or distance, you can see a lot of land relative to sky, whereas in other counties the visual depth is small."

Despite his modest successes within an artistically distinguished milieu, Gilbert needed to support himself with a variety of jobs among them farm labourer, postman, lorry driver. He was also, during the late 1960s, what the Penzance gallery owner Martin Val Baker later described as "the charismatic head waiter" of the popular Harbour Restaurant in St Ives. Val Baker's father, Denys, the novelist and editor of Cornish Review, portrayed Gilbert in the 1967 article as a committed painter with a wife, Jane, and two daughters.

Something, however, had to give between the necessity of supporting a family and giving undivided attention to painting. During the early 1980s, therefore, he left Cornwall and trained under Walter Carrington at the Holland Park Alexander Technique School. Subsequently Gilbert taught and administered the Alexander Technique in Norway, Germany, Finland, Denmark and Estonia as well as London. In 1990 he married a fellow practitioner, Tuula Paavola, his fourth wife, and moved to Finland. Here Gilbert was Head of the AT Institute of Finland throughout the 1990s and conducted training courses at Helsinki University and other institutes.

After his divorce in 1997, Gilbert returned to Cornwall, where he re-established his links with the local art scene, living in a wood house at Gwithian Towans and exhibiting once again at the Penwith, at the Belgrave Gallery, St Ives and at the Katharine House Gallery in Marlborough, Wiltshire. His career had in a sense come full circle, this popular and warm character having followed his own distinctive path.

Peter Davies

Dick Gilbert, painter and Alexander Technique practitioner: born Hayle, Cornwall 7 July 1935; married four times (three daughters); died Hayle 22 December 2008.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little