News & press

Patrick Procktor: Works on Paper

Geordie Greig, The Mail on Sunday: Event
February 12, 2017

Rating: 

In 1967 David Hockney gave his friend Patrick Procktor a box of watercolours. It was a eureka moment for this flamboyant English painter, who embraced the medium with a skill and facility unsurpassed in his generation.

It began a time of sell-out shows for Procktor, who seemed to epitomise the sexy try-it-all glamour of the period.

He drove across Europe with Hockney, was adored by Princess Margaret, photographed by Cecil Beaton, befriended by Jimi Hendrix and in his work captured a bohemian ease and laid-back sensuality. His subjects included Joe Orton and Mick Jagger.

A Patrick Procktor retrospective is long overdue but this exhibition is a welcome taster. He caught the zest of his age and was as masterful as anyone who dabbled in watercolour

He travelled widely making portraits and landscapes, and at best reinvented what watercolour could achieve.

But there was not to be a happy ending, as this languid, predominantly gay artist found tragedy in his later years.

The woman he married died of a heart attack aged 44, and he never quite got over splitting from the love of his life, a boy-singer called Gervase Griffiths.

But it was alcoholism that eventually upended him. The tipping point was when his house in Marylebone, which included murals by Hockney, Lucian Freud and Cecil Beaton, burnt down.

He drove across Europe with Hockney, was adored by Princess Margaret and photographed by Cecil Beaton. His subjects included Joe Orton and Mick Jagger.

Almost everything in his life was destroyed by a cigarette end. He ended up destitute. His final ignominy was prison, charged with attempted murder of his elderly mother who had taken him in.

With such a dark end, it is surprising how upbeat and light are the pictures on display at the Redfern Gallery. 

They include a felt-tip portrait of Mick Jagger and a watercolour of antiques dealer Christopher Gibbs, but the star of the show is a 1969 portrait of Gervase, Moroccan Slipper, looking like T Rex’s Marc Bolan, sensuous and youthful.

A retrospective of Procktor is long overdue but this is a welcome taster. He caught the zest of his age and was as masterful as anyone who dabbled in watercolour. Thank goodness Hockney passed on his paints.