17th Burnham Art Trail
Saturday 19th June to Sunday 27th June 2021

Geoffrey Earl Wickham ARCA FRBS 1919-2005

geoffreyGeoffrey Earl Wickham was a world renowned artist, associate of the Royal College of Art and fellow of the Royal British society of Sculptors (RBS) who lived and worked in Burnham-on-Crouch from 1986 until his death in 2005.

Geoffrey was born on July 10th 1919 in Wembley, Middlesex and even as a small child displayed a particular talent for art, producing drawings and paintings of a very high standard for his age. He attended the Willesden School of Art, after which he worked in a commercial studio when his artistic career was interrupted by the outbreak of the 2nd World War and he was conscripted.

However, the war did not in any way dampen his artistic spirit and he took advantage of every situation he found himself in to draw and sketch. By the end of hostilities he had amassed a great deal of work, including landscapes of the many European countries at which he was stationed, portraits of the service personnel that he met and general scenes of army life. Many fine examples of his work from this time are still kept in the National Army museum.

After leaving the services in 1946, he gained a place on the postgraduate course at The Royal College of Art and was awarded his Associateship in Fine Art (Painting) in 1949. He spent the next few years lecturing in art. Firstly, on a visiting basis and eventually, in 1951 becoming a senior lecturer at the visual studies department in the School of Architecture in Regent Street Polytechnic (now University of Westminster), where he stayed for 21 years.

From the early 1960s Geoffrey was increasingly commissioned to produce sculptures for buildings both in the UK and abroad often working in close collaboration with architects. He worked in a very wide range of materials including bronze, aluminium, ceramics, concrete and fiberglass. These works can be seen in offices in Ludgate Hill and Motcombe Street, London. Also in Sutton, Egham, Newmarket, France, Germany, Bahrain and Lagos, other examples are held throughout the world in various private collections.

In 1965 Geoffrey was elected an Associate of the Royal British Society of Sculptors and was made a Fellow in 1967. He was awarded the 1972 RBS Silver Medal for the Most Distinguished Sculpture in London for his “Fountain Head”, which was commissioned by Sotheby’s and still stands behind their building in Belgravia.

In 1970 Geoffrey became Principal lecturer in charge of Fine and Applied Art at Sir John Cass School of Art a faculty of the City of London Polytechnic (now Metropolitan University) until his retirement in 1982.

In 1981 Geoffrey met Akiko Fujikawa in London and they later married in Kyoto, Japan where they lived for four years. Geoffrey became a student of Japanese art and, adopting the Japanese title “HAJIME” meaning “beginner”, began an entirely new phase of his artistic career. He spent his time in Japan painting, woodblock printing, sculpting and exhibiting.

Geoffrey’s relationship with this part of Essex goes back well before 1986 when he moved to Burnham. His first wife, Winifred, also an artist, was living in Tollesbury and he would make regular visits to see her and their sons. When Geoffrey and Akiko came back to London for an eye operation Winifred told him that the Methodist Chapel in Burnham was for sale. The following morning he and Akiko came to see the chapel. He decided to buy it on the spot simply because the ceiling was tall enough for him to install his favourite easel, which had been in storage for many years.

Geoffrey and Akiko then moved to Burnham, set up the studio and continued to work and exhibit. He produced sensitive and spontaneous sumi-e drawings in Japanese calligraphy ink, capturing the spirit and vitality of life with minimal expressive gestures. He also made many paintings and terracotta sculptures during this period that reflected his thoughts about Japan.

Their life in Burnham was not just about art. They fully enjoyed the social activities of this town and made many friends through organisations like the local history society and croquet club.

Tragically in December 1995 Geoffrey lost his eyesight and was declared blind the following year. However, with a handmade monoscope, which had a tiny hole, he could detect something in front of him and he continued to create art. Geoffrey found a helper in David Reading who helped him to create a large papier-mâché sculpture. But he still could not see to paint.

Amazingly, even blindness could not quell his lust for life or passion for art. He managed to create many new abstract paintings with the help of Ms Greta Levins, who is a lifelong resident of this town. This fruitful artistic collaboration continued up until six weeks before his death in 2005, aged 85.

The pieces on show at this retrospective cover the entire range of Geoffrey’s different artistic styles and media that he used. There are examples from his earliest figurative drawings through the dramatic sculptures that he was most well known for, to the bold abstract paintings of his last period. Although very much a part of the British artistic establishment during the 50’s and 60’s, as you will be able to see, a great deal of his work was experimental in both material and subject matter.

See a retrospective exhibition of his work at Chapel Studio venue 14, everyday 11am – 5pm.