Obituary: Adrian Heath

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The Independent Online
MAY I add to Bryan Robertson's sympathetic and perceptive tribute to Adrian Heath (obituary, 21 September) by drawing attention to the support and encouragement Heath gave to fine-art education in Britain? writes Hywel James.

Adrian Heath travelled throughout Britain to art schools and polytechnics during the 1970s and 1980s on behalf of the Council for National Academic Awards, scrutinising degree and postgraduate fine-art courses. He did this regularly, with small groups of other artists, and invariably treated the task as an opportunity to talk seriously and in a kindly, enquiring manner to students and staff about the design and quality of their courses in painting and sculpture.

He was well informed about the latest young artists - he had usually seen their exhibitions, and was highly literate and wrote well about painting. He had a sharp intellect, and an equally incisive way of expressing himself (though always with impeccable politeness), particularly if he felt a college was being evasive or appeared to be offering its students second best. He wholeheartedly encouraged and supported innovation in art education.

As a supplementary point, on the long train or plane journeys which I had the pleasure of sharing with Heath on these validation visits, he spoke of events in his life with great humour and warmth - including his early training under Stanhope Forbes in Newlyn, his time in the RAF, and as a prisoner of war, where he spent part of his time forging papers for escapees.

Whether or not he was relating an anecdote about an aspect of painting or sculpture, he invariably drew out the amusing side of experience. The following story is typical.

Forbes, at nearly 80, would set the teenage Heath a study in the morning and return, well lunched, in the afternoon to examine the result. If the Master was not satisfied he would vigorously repaint the work, his Victorian coat tails billowing alarmingly as he repeatedly broke wind with the effort of thrusting the brush this way and that over his pupil's canvas. When recalling this apparently frequent experience during his apprenticeship in Newlyn, Heath wept with affectionate mirth as he mimicked (at least part of) the actions of the old boy wielding his brushes.

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