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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss