Tributes paid to Axminster artist

08:17 12 February 2014

Michael Morgan

Michael Morgan

Archant

Michael Morgan, who has died aged 85, remembered as an exceptional painter and a ‘man of great personal charm’.

Tributes have been paid to internationally acclaimed Axminster artist Michael Morgan who died last week, aged 85.

A prolific watercolourist, he will be remembered as one of Devon’s most highly regarded painters in recent times.

Mr Morgan enjoyed a distinguished career in academia before turning to his easel as a profession and developing his own ground-breaking style.

‘A man of great personal charm’, the Royal Institute member died on February 3, leaving a legacy his friend and gallery owner Mike Lambert said ‘can only endure’.

He pays tribute below.

“Hearing of his death ends 17 years of close friendship which developed between Michael, his wife Jill, and us,” said Mike.

“There are many good times to reflect on: his bemusement on first meeting in 1997 and being invited to exhibit at the shortly to be opened Marine House in out of the way Beer; convivial lunches in a little Japanese restaurant in Dorset; enlisting his expert guidance in selecting the John Blockley prize at the RI; enjoying sharing his pride in his wonderful garden; his frequent visits to the gallery so pleasurable for all the staff; the exciting process of selecting and evaluating new paintings for his solo shows; his introduction of new artists such as Charlie O’Sullivan to the gallery.

“These are just a few of the host of pleasurable events and time spent with Michael and Jill which will always remain in our memory.”

Michael trained as a teacher, at which he excelled, reaching the role of headmaster at Dartington Primary in his twenties and lecturing at colleges in Chichester and Bognor Regis. He was appointed as principal of Roehampton’s Froebel Institute, where he remained until retirement in 1985, and a number of colleges internationally appointed him as a trustee.

From childhood Michael always loved painting, and fulfilled an enduring promise, long proclaiming: “When I retire I’m going to paint!”

He evolved a unique genre which is widely credited with re-invigorating the watercolour medium.

Mike described his works as moving new interpretations of lonely and beautiful places which imbue a sense of escapism, and strike a chord with many in our fast moving and pressured world.

The final result, however, was work that drew in the viewer, set the imagination to work, and demanded detailed inspection.

In 1997 he selected Marine House at Beer in Devon as his gallery, close to his home near Axminster, and solo shows regularly proved sellouts.

Putting his academic, artistic and administrative skills into focus, he was appointed in 2000 as Chairman of the Board of Trustees and founding academician of the newly formed South West Academy of Fine and Applied Arts.

He was president of The Honiton Art Society and his active involvement in fundraising and encouragement for students in local schools and colleges led to the naming of the arts building at Axe Valley Community College after him.

Although he stopped painting through infirmity in 2012, appreciation for his work continues to grow and is seen to inspire many young up-and-coming artists.

He is survived by his wife Jill and sons James and Adam.

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