Jack Millar

Esteemed painter and teacher
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The Independent Online

Jack Ernest Millar, painter and teacher: born London 28 November 1921; married 1945 Pauline Sawyer (one son, two daughters; marriage dissolved 1964), 1969 Pamela Lucas (née Izzard; two stepsons, and one stepdaughter deceased); died London 2 November 2006.

It is not surprising that through his long life as a painter Jack Millar gained many prizes and was highly esteemed by his peers. From 1948 he was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Over the years he also contributed to several dozen other mixed shows in commercial and public galleries, as well as having a string of solo exhibitions.

The last of those, at Duncan Campbell Fine Art in 2003, indicated that Millar, then in his early eighties, was an artist still capable of producing his favourite interiors, as well as landscapes, soaked in sunlight and rich colour. The French artist Pierre Bonnard was the painter he especially admired, but a comparison with the Scottish Colourists would not have been out of place.

Of that show, the Royal Academician Ken Howard wrote:

Revelation is the key to all painting. Showing us a way to see. In Jack's case this is not shocking or confrontational, it is quiet and convincing and it adds to our perception of the world.

Jack Millar was born in London in 1921. His father was Ernest Woodroffe de Cauze Millar, a scenic artist who, prior to his early death, worked at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Jack and his two brothers were the product of Ernest's second marriage. Whereas the brothers stayed at home, Jack was reckoned by his father to be a burden and he was fostered. Those early years remained a bitter memory, although as a young man Jack chummed up with his father again and remained an admirer of what he had achieved.

Before the Second World War Millar became a student at Clapham Art School. After the war began and the school's evacuation, Millar disliked its new Midlands location and decided to return to London. He enrolled at St Martin's School of Art until he joined the Royal Artillery.

It was characteristic of Millar's easy-going approach to life that one Christmas he had to forfeit his sergeant's stripes when gunners in his charge were found drunk on duty. Millar was next posted to India, where he contracted tuberculosis, which necessitated a transfer to South Africa for recuperation. When his health deteriorated to the point where it was feared he would not last long, he was sent home to England, but curiously by the time of his return he was found to be cured.

After the war Millar continued his studies at the Royal College of Art, where he was taught by Rodrigo Moynihan, John Minton and Carel Weight. Millar was awarded first class honours at the Royal College and the Andrew Lloyd Scholarship for landscape painting in 1950.

Carel Weight remained a great help and influence. After a failed first marriage, Millar in 1969 married the painter Pamela Izzard. Weight's present to the happy couple was his own drolly titled The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden.

Like many artists, the Millars had to teach as well as paint, one compensation being the interaction with fellow teachers and students. Many students benefited from Millar's guidance as a visiting lecturer at the Royal Academy Schools from 1964 to 1992, also as head of fine art at Walthamstow School of Art, 1966-73, and Kingston Polytechnic, 1973-86.

Millar was elected a member of the Royal Society of British Artists in 1954 and of the New English Art Club in 2001. He also showed with the London Group and out of London with the Royal West of England Academy and Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts.

David Buckman

Jack Millar was a dedicated artist with encyclopaedic knowledge, huge energy and insight into the creative process, writes Fred Cuming. With a wicked and anarchic sense of humour, he delighted in and was capable of deflating pompous attitudes in others and occasionally, if necessary, himself. He was a great raconteur, and his tales of army life and experiences in the arts were Kiplingesque with a dash of Damon Runyon or Thurber.

As a teacher, he was approachable, widely read and articulate; he made easy contact with students, being able to understand their thoughts and aspirations. Teaching is a two- way process in the arts and he was as excited and involved in their ideas as he was in transmitting his thoughts and ideas to them. He was infinitely patient but firm in criticism: his insistence on learning the basics never faltered.

To draw, he thought, brought understanding - he was fascinated by the making of art works, film, music, theatre and the parallels between these activities and disciplines. In his own work his approach was deceptively simple: his home life, interiors, the structure and play of light, the changing seasons of Dulwich and London were all depicted with love and perception, his frequent trips abroad always producing a bonus of works.

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