Richard Vicary

Printmaker and painter


Richard Henry Vicary, artist and teacher: born Sutton, Surrey, 8 July 1918; married first Jean Bickford (died 1961; two sons); second 1964 Deirdre Creagan (one son, one daughter); died Shrewsbury 8 August 2006.

The artist Richard Vicary's preferred medium was lithography, an art form invented in Munich in 1798 when Aloys Senefelder discovered how to print from the flat surface of stone (lithography means "drawing on stone"). Exploiting the fact that water and grease repel one another, it was the first entirely new development in printing since the 15th century, although the printing surface is now more often a metal plate such as aluminium or zinc.

The process has been adapted considerably during the course of its history until, in the 20th century, lithography replaced most other processes for printing on paper. Traditionally in art lithography was used primarily for the landscapes which were Vicary's most characteristic subject matter. Printing on a lithographic press is particularly complicated - and Vicary had a great zest for mechanical devices, the more improbable the better. He also wrote two books: The Thames and Hudson Manual of Lithography (1976) and The Thames and Hudson Advanced Manual of Lithography (1977).

Vicary's art was strongly influenced by the Neo-Romantic painters and printmakers of the wartime and immediate post-war years, when artists such as Graham Sutherland, Ceri Richards, John Piper, John Craxton and John Minton were at the height of their reputations. His own artistic preference was for landscapes that showed evidence of man's activity, such as quarries and industry. He never depicted his motifs in a topographical manner but he noted the "air of unreality" within his work: perspectives are foreshortened, images are out of all proportion to reality and in improbable conjunction to one another, colours are strong and bold and "unnatural". Despite living 80 miles from the sea, he was attracted by working ships.

Vicary was born in Sutton in Surrey in 1918. His father was a Methodist minister and a member of the Pen Club who wrote pot-boilers under the name Simon Jesty. (His 1935 novel River Niger had an introduction by T.E. Lawrence.) His rather fiery mother was a suffragette. An elder brother was killed in action during the Second World War.

Richard Vicary attended the Judd School in Tonbridge in Kent until his father, no doubt thinking his son needed a safe career, found him a position in a bank. This proved to be a disaster and before long he was sacked. The headmaster of his school suggested instead that Vicary's evident artistic talent for making architectural drawings should be allowed to flourish, and so in 1935 he was sent to study at Tunbridge Wells School of Art. The following year, he went to the Medway School of Art in Maidstone, where he stayed until the outbreak of war in 1939.

As a conscript in the Royal West Kent Regiment, Vicary helped set up smoke-screens over the Thames during the Blitz; later he worked in radar in North Wales. At the end of the war, believing it too late to take up the place he had been offered at London University, he instead attended Brighton School of Art and the Kodak Photographic School. Subsequently he taught at the Tiffin School at Kingston upon Thames and, from 1948 to 1950, part-time at Epsom and Ewell School of Art. The greater part of Vicary's career was spent as Head of Graphics and Printmaking at Shrewsbury School of Art until, in 1972, he retired on account of ill-health. Subsequently he conducted summer schools at Henllan Mill near Welshpool.

All the while, Vicary continued with his own work - although he was the most modest of men and had to be persuaded to exhibit. After various wartime exhibitions he showed in the 1950s with the Artists International Association in Whitechapel. He also exhibited at the Oriel Gallery, Newtown, the Gateway Gallery in Shrewsbury and the Bohun Gallery in Henley-on-Thames and had solo exhibitions in Birmingham, Lancaster, Shrewsbury and Leningrad. In 1974 Vicary was elected to the Royal Society of Painter- Etchers and Engravers and to the Royal West of England Academy in 1989. His bright, optimistic work was bought by a number of education authorities, Bath University, St Thomas's Hospital and many private collectors.

Aside from his printmaking Vicary painted in watercolour and pastel. He produced poster poems for West Midland Arts and the Housman Society, as well as linocut illustrations for the children's book The Ivy Garland (1982).

After the death of his first wife, Jean, from cancer in 1961, Vicary married again, to Deirdre Creagan, and bought a smallholding with several acres of land near Shrewsbury, where he lived for the rest of his life. An old cowshed was converted into a studio - albeit one invariably in a state of chaos - and here he installed a couple of printing presses. The first, from Ellesmere College, he dismantled and brought home on a tractor and trailer; the second, from Shrewsbury College of Art, was the one he himself had bought when he had been head of printmaking. Ever resourceful, when the family washing machine came to the end of its working life, Vicary took it apart and turned it into a Heath Robinson-like contraption of a water barrel which directed water down on to his lithographic press.

Forever on the side of life's casualties and the dispossessed, Vicary collected both stray dogs and stray people. His conversion to become a Jehovah's Witness about 20 years ago was typical: they were, in his eyes, another persecuted minority and therefore worthy of support.

Staunchly left-wing in his principles, Vicary taught himself Russian and would take his family to Russia on holiday. A one-man exhibition at the Mukhina Gallery in St Petersburg in 1991 came about after a long correspondence with Vladimir Shistko, an "Honoured Artist of the Russian Federation" and Head of Design and Graphics at the Academy of Industrial Art in Leningrad.

Simon Fenwick

News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Sport
sport
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
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
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

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux / Redhat / Solaris / Puppet / SAN

£65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape