We were deeply saddened to hear the news that Fred Cuming died on 11 June 2022, aged 92. Many NEAC Members shared their thoughts and memories of Fred's life and work, including Maurice Sheppard who leads our tribute . . .
"Eavesdropping, way back in about 1968, I heard the name ‘Fred Cuming’ being taken in vain during a tutorial that was taking place in the cubicle (next to mine) at Kingston College of Art.
"The Head of Painting was berating a fellow student, Leslie Prothero, for supposedly imitating or following the style of an Academy painter called Cuming. Leslie Prothero painted well even then, often representing fluorescent strip lighting in his studio compositions. When I got to see real Fred Cumings at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibitions, these were interiors of shacks on the beach. Some did have strip lighting and diffuse views out onto darkening seas.
"Realising that the optical flare from fluorescent strip lights appears white, green and orange (by turn) mixed in the eye of the beholder, this proved to be a key to the exceptional tonality of all Cuming's work down the years. He could paint the clouds of smoke from burning Kentish stubble, vast tracts of sky with huge thunder clouds and loads of empty space. Like Turner's, they were ‘paintings of nothing’.
"Then there was the paint itself, the mystery of the painted surface, possibly untouched by a brush. Often flat areas of silky grey, cream and pink paint are just hanging there, like a challenge to Mark Rothko.
"My belief was that the New English Art Club was for Peter Greenham, Bernard Dunstan, Anthony Eyton and Fred Cuming who were magicians of ‘the touch’ in oil paint. Of the same kind, but more artist/journalists, were William Bowyer, Ken Howard, Tom Coates and Anthony Green. Cuming's gift gave him infinite colour, never dark, never blonde – always colour in transition.
"The ‘Fortress’ of Academy Painters: Bowey, Howard, Armfield, Remfry and Rooney are diminished and weakened by the loss of Cuming. We had better scout around for a Noah, or an Ark, before the deluge." Maurice Sheppard
“A lyrical, poetic master of colour and atmosphere. An inspiration to us all.” Ann Shrager
'He was a poet in paint, and truly wonderful painter.' Peter Kuhfeld
“We will miss him as a wonderful artist and human being.” Ken Howard
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