Remembering Roy Freer (1938-2021)

We recently received the sad news that our friend and colleague Roy Freer NEAC RI ROI passed away on 3 March 2021.

Roy was elected to the New English Art Club in 2000 and was much loved and respected by his fellow members, for example, Melissa Scott-Miller remembers him as “very kind and encouraging” when she first joined.


Salliann Putman recalls, “I first met Roy in the late 1970s, about the same time a group of us launched the Sunningdale Art Society. I made sure that I became the programme secretary as I felt that it was essential that we got really good speakers and demonstrators.

“I had been so inspired by Roy that I invited him to run a weekend workshop for the society. He ended up running three and they were all brilliant.

“Roy arrived in a small van which was packed to the roof. We had a large village hall which Roy transformed into a world of pure colour. He assembled three large white platforms and placed on, and around them, deckchairs, sunflowers, pots, fabrics, cubes, painted chairs and many other objects. It was a colourist’s paradise.

“Roy then demonstrated his approach to painting and it was a revelation. From the very first mark, there was life and energy. He would mass in the big areas in wonderful colour. Then he would gradually move into smaller marks, mixing the colour and transferring it to his brush. He would then study his subject with a searching eye before making a mark. His work looks so free, but it is carefully considered.

Roy really taught me how to look. I recall him showing a slide of an interior with the light flooding in through the window. Roy then adjusted the lens on the projector so that everything was out of focus. This was a moment of magic as the image was transformed into pools of light . . . edges disappeared . . . tones became all important . . . masses appeared. Colour and tone were more important to Roy than the subject.

Roy was an inspirational painter; he was very much a painter’s painter. I was privileged to attend a number of his courses and came away totally inspired.

The art world has been enriched by Roy’s painting and his teaching. He will be so missed.”


Paul Curtis shared these words, "Visiting a New English Art Club exhibition, Roy Freer’s paintings softly tapped you on the shoulder as you walked by, pulling you back to look again at the quiet, close-toned colour with one accent of light. They reflected his personality and determination to take a chance with his work in order to get it right.

"In the 60s, Roy and I - along with Tom Coates - were together in Birmingham at Bourneville College of Art where the gentle Arts and Crafts philosophy touched us all.

"Roy and Sally’s river-side house in Suffolk has drawings and paintings by other artists who reflected their way of life and enhanced the thorough research that informed Roy’s creative practice. A weekend painting with Roy in his garden in September 2018 was a joy and something to treasure. Roy and his work will be sadly missed."


NEAC President Peter Brown remembers, “I always found Roy’s paintings remarkably fresh. His ability to design the picture surface while describing form and space created welcoming atmospheres for us to enter and enjoy. He appeared to show respect for his subject, sometimes monumentalising - say - the end of a terrace, and yet was never a slave to his subject.

“It was always a treat to see Roy at our annual exhibition, usually accompanied by his wife Sally. They seemed never to be apart. I remember being utterly delighted to see their faces at the end of a boring talk I gave in Colchester. I wondered what on earth could they have gleaned from it, but thought how generous of them to come and how happy I was to see them! I was so pleased to hear from Sally recently that his sons plan to publish an archive of Roy’s work online. Something for us all to look forward to after the sad news of his passing.”


You can read more about Roy's life & work and view a selection of his paintings & drawings on his NEAC artist profile page.

March 27, 2021