OBITUARIES:Victor Reinganum

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The Independent Online
Edward Ardizzone said of Victor Reinganum, "He is to art what Roy Plomley is to biography." Reinganum described himself as an "illustrator/ painter" and occasionally as a "pen man", because the pen determined the precision of his forms and black e mergedas the richest and the most persistent of his colours.

He was educated at London's oldest art school, Heatherley School of Fine Art, located during the 1920s just off Oxford Street. He also attended the Academie Julian in Paris and was one of Leger's six private students in his studio in Montmartre. On his return to London in 1926, Reinganum took his portfolio to Maurice Gorham, the art editor of the Radio Times, who bought one of his drawings on the spot and started Reinganum on his freelance career as illustrator. During the 1930s and 1940s, together withEric Fraser, Reinganum became responsible for the style of the Radio Times. His association with the Radio Times was to continue for 40 years. The discipline that this work demanded, the speed and accuracy with which he had to absorb information and interpret it, informed his painting and graphic design.

In 1926, with Nicolas Bentley, Reinganum formed the Pandemonium Group, a loosely knit group of "bright young things" that held regular exhibitions at the Beaux Arts Gallery, where they began their tentative experiments with abstraction. In his freelance work as designer and illustrator, he worked for Shell and London Transport, the two main patrons of progressive artists in the 1920s and 1930s, as well as BBC Television, the Ministry of Works, the Post Office, British Rail and the Science Museum.

Victor Reinganum was an intellectual and a wit. He was reticent about himself, impatient with the world, and a moralist with a sense of humour. As a conscientious objector during the Second World War, he was trained in first aid with St John's Ambulance Brigade in 1939 and drafted into the Rescue Service at the time of the London blitz.

After the war, he continued his freelance career as graphic designer and painter, in London until 1953, then in Hartfield, Sussex, and after 1980 in Tunbridge Wells in Kent. From 1962 to 1966 he taught part-time in the department of Graphic Design in Croydon College of Art.

Reinganum disliked categories, both of medium and style, and did his best to avoid them. His paintings were exhibited under the banner "abstraction" but, gradually, the world at large dubbed him a Surrealist and he was swept up in the wave of British Surrealism exhibitions in the 1970s. His paintings have been shown in 20 exhibitions with "Surrealism" in their title, together with other members associated with the movement that included: Edward Burra, Eileen Agar, Merlyn Evans, Conroy Maddox, Tristram Hillier, John Piper and Roland Penrose.

Reinganum's paintings are imaginative explorations of form with references to the real world of objects, figures and nature. However abstracted, the images are usually identifiable, characteristically biomorphic and often menacing. He used the conventional media of gouache, oil and collage, but he also invented his own techniques that enabled him, for instance, to achieve marbling effects by floating waterproof ink on water in the kitchen sink and then lifting it off on sheets of paper.

Reinganum called the most abstract of his paintings Diagrams. They are not diagrams of or for anything, but equally they are not abstractions from or of anything, "except," as he said, "from my imagination". Even so, all these highly crafted formal arrangements have relationships that are full of incident as the shapes touch and interact, interpenetrate, and then go on to devour each other with calm and measured formality.

His last retrospective exhibition, "60 Years of Painting", was held at Oriel Gallery, Theatr Clwyd in Mold, two years ago.

Jasia Reichardt

Edward Victor Reinganum, painter and illustrator: born London 13 September 1907; married Olive Laurie of Maxwelton (died 1942; one son, and one son deceased), 1943 Ethelwyn Sheppard (died 1980), 1981 Pamela Byrne (nee Kirkland; one stepson); died Tunbridge Wells 24 January 1995.

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