THE DUKE, THE DUCHESS, THE LOO AND THE BATHROOM (and me) (part I)

The amusing tale of how i acquired my most illustrius patron…

Although I failed to make the big time as a fine artist, I did nevertheless manage to acquire one or two illustrious clients/patrons, and the most prominent of these was a certain Andrew Robert Buxton Cavendish, 11th Duke of Devonshire.

In 1983, a couple of years following my graduation from Saint Martin’s, I had just been part of a major exhibition at the Ben Uri Gallery in London’s Soho (all, landscapes of Israel). However, despite a healthy number of sales, I was left with about a dozen canvases, several of which I thought were far better paintings than most of those that had been purchased.

My page from the Jewish Chronicle colour magazine’s article on the “Four Young Artist’s show at the Ben Uri Art Gallery in Soho.

About that time I read an article in the paper about the Duke of Devonshire covering a trip he had recently made to Israel, in which he was revealed as being a keen admirer of the Jewish State – making him a very rare beast indeed within the ranks of the British upper class. But for this fact alone I might have not have given the Duke much more thought, but the piece also discussed his passion for 20th century art and his support for aspiring British artists. While I was well aware, that his ducal palace of Chatsworth, had one of the finest private art collections in Europe, the fact that he was a collector in his own right was news to me. Thus I thought, as an aspiring British artist, with a hat-full of 20th century landscapes of a place he liked, might it not be worth my while approaching him. After all, what did I have to lose, except a wasted letter?

And so, after some research on how to address such an august personage in writing, I wrote to “[His] Grace”, at his home at Chatsworth in Derbyshire* It was a short letter, and to the point, appealing both to his love of art and his affection for the State of Israel. I also enclosed a handful of photos of my paintings, and a copy of a magazine with an article about me and my exhibition at the Ben Uri.

The late Duke and Duchess (Andrew and Debs, to their friends – Debs being originally Deborah Mitford, the youngest of the famous, and infamous “Mitford Girls“) in the Chatsworth library, with Hans Eworth’s fine copy of Holbein’s original portrait of Henry VIII.

About a week later, I was deeply engaged in my morning visit to the smallest room in the house when the telephone rang. I heard my mother answer it (I was still living at home in 1983), and then a few seconds later she banged on the door and demanded I take phone from her, immediately, whispering loudly, “It’s the Duke of Devonshire!”

Twice in my life I have been compelled to hold seminal, life-changing conversations while seated on the lavatory – the first being this one, with the Duke of Devonshire, and the second, with the publisher-to-be of my book, King Saul. I’ve often mused, that if I’d spent more time on the loo, I might have enjoyed greater success in my professional life!

Fortunately, given my state of indisposition, the conversation with His Grace did not take too long, and by the time it was over, he had invited me, and two examples of my oil paintings to his London home, the following week.

What occurred there, goes down as one of the more interesting and eccentric episodes of my professional life, and will comprise part II of this little tale…

*(all those wondering why the seat of the Dukes of Devonshire is in Derbyshire please see here)

5 thoughts on “THE DUKE, THE DUCHESS, THE LOO AND THE BATHROOM (and me) (part I)

  1. Great story Adam… and very I’loo’minating ….. and tantalising… looking forward to part 2…

    Like

  2. Excellent amuse-gueule ahead of the substantive story to follow. I do hope you spare us no small details of the encounter, Adam.

    The Tel Hi painting is especially charming – I hadn’t seen it before.

    Like

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