It is with great sadness that we report the death of Ronald Morgan.
Ronald had had a fall on the stone stairs in his block of flats and received a brain injury. The prognosis was not good and, although he had surgery and remained in the Critical Care Ward, he died at 3.30 a.m. on the 31st August at the Whitechapel Hospital, about a week after the incident on the stairs. Ronald had several health problems including the need for kidney dialysis 3 times a week, but he never stopped painting and always supported any RBA exhibition or event.
He was 83 years old.
We are all very sad at his passing and his smiling face will be missed by all members of the RBA. At the AGM in July Ronald was awarded the Whistler Medal having been selected by his peers to receive the award, for his work and for his support of the RBA.
The following article was written in July 2017 by The Gentle Author and was included in his book ‘East End Vernacular – Artists who painted London’s East End streets in the 20th Century’. Published by Spitalfields Life Books. (Featured Photograph by The Gentle Author)
Ronald has lived the batchelor life in an attractive art deco block of flats in Bow for forty years and it is furnished as if he had only just moved in, yet the piles of discarded sketches which litter the floor of his quiet studio at the rear of the building more than testify to his prodigious output in this time.
I discovered Ronald Morgan’s work through his painting of a Salvation Army band standing in the rain at the junction of Parnell and Tredegar Rd in Tower Hamlets’ art collection and I was fascinated to discover that he is a long time resident of the borough, even though leads a quiet life devoted to painting and keeps a resolutely low profile in the East End.
“I was born in 1936 near Cannock in Staffordshire. When I was about twelve my parents bought me some watercolours and I dabbled about in an amateurish way. When I was fifteen, I went to Walsall School of Art and I was there doing graphic design, we called it ‘commercial art’ in those days. I left the School at eighteen and couldn’t get a job as a graphic designer, so I had to work in an industrial drawing office, drawing machinery, that sort of thing. I was a junior draftsman.
The principal of the School of Art invited me to join the Walsall Society of Artists of which he was the secretary, so I became a junior member when I was eighteen. I mentioned to him one day that I was going to submit some work to the Royal Academy Summer Show. ‘My boy, you’ll be wasting your time and money,’ he informed me, ‘I am a graduate of the Royal College of Art and a close friend of Henry Moore – he was the best man at my wedding – and I’ve been submitting pictures for forty years, but never had one accepted.’ What an idiot! Anyway, I was undaunted so I sent in two drawings and they were both accepted, and one got shown in the exhibition. When he found this out, he was so annoyed. Instead of saying, ‘Congratulations!’ he didn’t speak to me again for a whole year, and next year I sent in three pictures and got two in the show. I was showing there every year after that.
After working in the drawing office, I got a job in a local government planning department – doing illustrations, that sort of work. As I was exhibiting so many times in London, coming down by train all the time, I thought, ‘I might as well live there.’ So I applied for several jobs and eventually I got one working for the London Borough of Haringey. The chap in charge saw my watercolours and said, ‘Could you do something like that for us?’ So I said, ‘Yes, certainly,’ and I moved down here. I got digs in Hornsey and, after four years, I moved to Hammersmith Council. It was a similar sort of thing, the boss saw my work and said, ‘We’d like you to do some work like that for us.’
All these years, I was painting in every available moment of my own time. I paint on location, so I’d go out with my easel and I took trips abroad around Europe. Now it is more difficult because I am eighty-one, and carrying an easel and paint box around is quite heavy. I still work very hard and I’d never give it up, even though I feel very tired sometimes. I do a lot of walking though and I still paint out of doors, I was painting the other week in Richmond by the Thames. Turner painted there, he was a great painter – one of my favourites.
I won quite a few awards including the Lord Mayor’s Art Award in 1974, for a street scene in Islington. It is nice to sell pictures – it gives you confidence, you know. I sell on the internet occasionally through the Royal Society of British Artists. I sold a picture of Venice to a woman in Hong Kong a few weeks ago!
From Hammersmith, I applied for a job at the drawing office in Tower Hamlets when the Town Hall was here in Bow. I became the senior draftsman and I thought, ‘I’d love to live in the East End.’ I like the East End, it has a nice feel to it. So I came and painted a lot in the streets around here. I painted several Salvation Army bands including one in Whitechapel, where it all started. I have painted kids playing football in the street in the East End. I painted all along the Regent’s Canal and the River Lea. I was painting down by the River Lea twenty years ago on a very windy day. A gust of wind almost blew my easel over and I grabbed hold of it, but my picture had gone – into the river – three hours work wasted! It just floated away.
I have lived in this flat for about forty years. I paint full time now, every day of the week. I just love painting streets, I put my easel up and paint. When you see a subject under certain lighting conditions – bright light or evening light – it’s so exciting. I have even got people to pose for me in the street. I say, ‘Madame or Sir, could you stand there for about ten minutes while I paint you?’ and they’ve done it.
The worst thing is when someone gets out of their Porsche with a cigar and says, ‘I’d love to buy your painting.’ This happened to me at Putney, the man said, ‘I live just down the road and I’ve always wanted a picture of this stretch of the river.’ So I said, ‘As a favour, you can have it unframed for £300.’ He said, ‘£300 for a small painting like that!’ I wanted to say, ‘If you can afford a Porsche, you can afford three hundred quid for a painting.’
I have lived in London for about fifty years and I have seen a tremendous amount of change. When I first came, there were all these lovely old buildings. They were ancient and falling apart some of them but marvellous to paint, whereas now they have been replaced by modern developments which are not so attractive. I still enjoy the East End and I love to paint the river, I think I have painted whole of this end of the river right down to the coast.”
The RBA would like to thank The Gentle Author for giving us permission to use his photograph of Ronald and his article in this obituary.
Memories & Thoughts
Photographs courtesy Liam Culver FRBA
The first time I met Ronald was a few years before I became a member of the RBA. He was talking to Alfred Daniels at the Royal Academy ‘Varnishing Day’. Danny introduced us to each other and Ronald responded with a smile, a firm handshake and his signature “A pleasure to meet you dear boy”. Ronald had egg yolk on his tie and he noticed me staring at it and started to scrape it off. Danny stopped him and said “Don’t clean it off, I think the yellow dribble gives the pattern a lift”. Ron looked at it again and said, “You know, I think you’re right, it’s perfect!” Five years later we met again at the PV of an RBA show. He remembered me straight away and, displaying his tie, he said “Eggless!”
I have always admired Ronald’s quiet, polite charm and easy-going demeanour. He was every inch a gentleman. Talking to the man, you would never know how difficult his life had become, having to get up at the crack of dawn 3 days a week for dialysis. Never a moan or a cross word. I will always remember the photo of him I saw in “Spitalfields Life” sitting in his studio, so serene and calm whilst all around him is total chaos. What a gem of a man, who will really be missed by his friends and colleagues.
– – Mick Davies, PRBA – –
I, like many other members of the RBA am so sorry to hear this news. I was very fond of Ronald and had a few chats with him recently at the Private View and later at the AGM.
He told me of his health problems, which have dogged him recently, but he was still very optimistic and charming as always.
Many I know will very sorely miss him.
I am very pleased that he was recognised by his colleagues in winning the Whistler medal this year, and the fact that he donated the prize money to the Society was a measure of the man.
– – Chris Myers – –
Sorry to hear this, I didn’t know Ronald very well but he was always a very courteous gentleman on the few occasions when we met at the RBA.
— Chris Aggs —
That is so sad, such a lovely artist
– – Melissa Scott-Miller – –
How very sad. Ronald was such a trooper with dialysis all the time and continuing to paint. . A sweet, kind and interesting man. He will be a great loss. Please convey my deepest sympathy and condolences to his next of kin
– – Jacqueline Taber – –
Very sad to hear of the death of Ronald Morgan whom I have personally known for many years and he became a good and trusted friend.
He was a fine painter and gave so much of his time to the society and he will be greatly missed.
We will remember the time we spent with him at the RBA exhibition and the lovely times we had with him. We have been privileged to know him over many years.
– – John & Barbara Sprakes – –
So very sad to hear the news of dear Ronald Morgan – a great art friend for many years.
My sincere condolences.
– – Fred Becket – –
Such very sad news about Ron, I will miss him
– – Nick Tidnam – –
I feel very sad as he was a good friend to Peter and I over the years and he lived for his art, never complaining when he had to go to dialysis three times a week over the last few years. I hope he and Peter are having some good discussions now!
– – Brenda Kelly – –
Ronald was a very dear friend, a lovely man and always so cheerful even when his health was not good, I shall miss so much the big hug each time we met.
– – Ann Heat – –
I am saddened to hear the news of Ronald’s Morgan’s death and please send my sincere condolences. Regrettably, I didn’t know him well, but always admired his work greatly and I’m sure all members will miss him and his wonderfully individual contribution to our Society.
– – Richard Cook – –
Ron had been a good friend to me for over forty years now and counting
– – David and Ruth Rowan – –
I’m so sorry to hear that news, I’m glad he won the Whistler prize at the RBA show. This at least would have told him how much he was liked and respected in the Society.
– – Annie Boisseau – –
Very sad news about Ronald Morgan; he will be in all our thoughts and prayers.
– – Peter Warden – –
I’m so sorry to hear of this news!
— Akash Bhatt – –
So sad for Ronald, my thoughts are with him
– – Susan Bower – –
John and I are so very sorry to hear about Ronald ‘s fall. We are thinking of him with sadness
– -John & Sally Wilkinson – –
So sorry for the sad news, such a nice man, a real gentleman
– – Martyn Baldwin – –
I’m sorry to hear that Ronald Morgan has passed away. What a horrible thing to happen. A fall is often disastrous for older people even if they are otherwise in reasonable health. I’m pleased he received the Whistler Medal – a good thing to happen for him – and just in time.
– – Steven Outram – –
It was with great sadness that we read your email about Ronald. Some time ago he contacted me regarding producing some of his images into greeting cards – something that he really wanted to do.
He decided to buy himself a camera but try as he might he could not work out how to use it and his photography, well you name it ie. out of focus/images at an angle, date and time printed on the image.
He was so upset and frustrated about this, but from this distance not a lot I could do for him and we had to abandon the idea, he was very disappointed.
Then recently along came this knight in shining armour…..Liam Culver FRBA …..’photographer of the year’……looking like David Bailey.
Liam (as he had done with some other members of the RBA) visited Ronald and took a range of photographs of his work and these were passed on to me.
A few weeks ago we were able to achieve his goal and I printed a range of greeting cards from his work, he was so pleased with the end result and so was I.
— Cheryl & John Culver – –
[Liam visited to take some photos for him:]It is very sad news indeed. I am still a little shocked by it. I found him to be a really sincere and interesting person. There was something very intriguing about his compulsion to paint. With some artists I meet it is all about business, with others its a passion-turned-profession and then there are others like Ronald where it just seems to be a calling.
If he didn’t like his work, he just chucked it on the floor, and started again. Almost like it was not good enough to go on the drying rack, but too precious to go in the bin. There was only a small path cleared between the door and the easel. He told me not to worry about standing on anything, but it did feel very disrespectful to tread on his work.
– – Liam Culver FRBA – –
Ronald was a regular exhibitor at The Russell Gallery and we had a running stock of his paintings of Putney. These were bought by people from all over the world who had lived in the area or holidayed here as a reminder of their time in England.
Ronald was a true gentleman in every sense and we will miss him.
– – Charles and Sarah, The Russell Gallery, Putney – –
On Tuesday 8th October, we said a final, fond farewell to a true gentleman, a renowned artist and a great friend of the gallery. Ronald Morgan will be sorely missed by many, including all at M1 Fine Art.
With oil paintings surrounding his coffin in place of flowers, a group of friends old and new gathered in East London to say goodbye whilst sharing stories and memories of our experiences with him.
From his first application (and acceptance) to the Royal Academy, through his time in the Royal Society of British Artists and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters to the day that he passed away, Ronald lived to paint. His skill was obvious from an early age and admirers and collectors of his work thankfully allowed for him to live the life in art that he longed to. As a result, we can honestly say that Ronald left the world a more beautiful place than he found it.
We will miss him dropping in for a cup of tea and a chat and are of course saddened that we will never again see a new work of art, fresh from his studio.
Goodbye ‘old boy’, thanks for all the paintings!
– – Peter McAllister, M1 Gallery – –
Thank you for the appreciation of Ronald Morgan, whom I have known from very early days. I can only reiterate what so many others have said of him and would just add that he was a painter who kept the flag flying for traditional work at this time of so much fake or pseudo ‘art’. Keep painting, Ronald! — Charles Hardaker –
Thank you for the wonderful list of tributes to Ronald, so appropriate for him. My apologies but will not be able to attend the funeral, however my thoughts will be with you all. — Fred Beckett –
We are all feeling very sad. I know I am speaking for all the members when I say we will miss him a lot. He was a friendly and charming man who always looked so ‘dapper’. A fine artist and a fine gentleman, who suffered his many physical problems with great dignity. He was always first to volunteer to steward, twice each week, at the Annual Show – not on his dialysis days, of course – and he always had a smile and a warm greeting.
– – Brenda Davies – –