Exhibition in the home of late artist who loved Heath walks
- Credit: Norman Miller Estate
An exhibition of paintings by Norman Miller is being held in the Kentish Town home where he lived and worked for 45 years.
The retrospective is the first chance since the artist's death in 2013 to see more than 40 of his works in one place - many inspired by his daily walks on Hampstead Heath.
Visitors can explore the range of his output, from rarely seen early works to later unshown pieces planned for an exhibition at The Mercer Gallery in Yorkshire.
"There are many styles from different parts of his career on view," said curator Ondine Gillies, who was Miller's Goddaughter.
"I love the variety and breadth of the practice. The early works are more abstract, intimate portraits of women and children in gritty 60s London. Then there are the mid-career clowns, jugglers and acrobats based on his interest in the circus and Shakespeare. And the later works are awe-inspiring jewel like landscapes."
Born into a Russian-Jewish family in Yorkshire in 1926, Miller studied art in Leeds and Bradford before settling in London in 1952 where he became part of the community of Camden's post-war artists and writers including William Coldstream, Liam Hanley and David Storey.
During a brief career as an RSC actor he lived with Tom Courtenay and Albert Finney and met his actress wife Norma Shebbeare. They moved to Willes Road in 1968 where archival photographs depict Miller's first floor studio with a large paint-splattered home-made easel, stacked canvases and a transistor radio on the mantelpiece.
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Friends describe a life of contentment and routine starting with a walk on Hampstead Heath, painting in the afternoon before a 5-11pm shift at a British Telecom telephonist, followed by weekly visits to the National Gallery.
Friend Nicholas Usherwood, describes his daily excursion "through a gap in the beech hedgerows by Parliament Hill Fields’ tennis courts, turn right up past the boating pond with its gliding swans and silent rows of gulls, and then take off, along almost chalk white paths, up and over a succession of rough grey-green hillocks and through their dark and densely three dimensional boundaries of trees and shrubs, and into the ordered pastoral picture of Kenwood House and its grounds."
Gilles adds: "It was the same route every day, he never got bored and saw something new in the light and colour."
Miller held solo exhibitions at the John Whibley Gallery, Piccadilly Gallery, Portal Gallery and Belgrave Gallery, and regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. His later works had a powerful dream-like quality reminiscent of Marc Chagall or Paul Klee, described as a mix of the 'pastoral and the mystical.'
Gilles says Miller was "quietly successful and contained," and never sought the limelight.
"He was my mother's godfather and Norma and Norman were surrogate parents to her in London. My mum came to the house all through her childhood. The studio was on the first floor in the front room. When David Storey and his wife came to view the house next door he saw Norman painting through the window and thought 'what a wonderful road or artists I want to be part of it.'
"They were modest, simple people who loved going to the theatre, galleries and walks. Painting was what he loved and many people remember him walking around Kentish Town. We hope the exhibition is a celebration of his life. As an exhibition manager, it's the utmost privilege to be curating this show of my godfather's work."
Norman Miller; A Retrospective runs October 1-17 in Willes Road, NW5 with proceeds from sales going towards creating an art bursary. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org