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Gore, Frederick John Pym (1913–2009), artist, was born on 8 November 1913 at 6 Cambrian Road, Richmond, Surrey, the younger child and only son of , artist, and his wife, Mary Johanna, née Kerr (1889–1968), dancer. He was less than five months and his older sister (Margaret) Elizabeth (1912–1994) less than two years old when their father's death left their Scottish mother a widow after only two years of marriage. The other artists of the Camden Town Group, of which Spencer Gore had been first president, organized exhibitions of his work helping to secure Mary's income, later supplemented by a civil list pension. Gore's paternal aunts helped him obtain a scholarship to Lancing College, where he proved a good athlete. He became head boy and won a scholarship to read classics at Trinity College, Oxford, but chose to spend more time at the Ruskin School of Art where an old friend of his father's, Albert Rutherston, was master. He left Oxford without completing a degree. Enthusiastic to study art, he arrived in London in 1934, enrolling at the Westminster School of Art where he fell under the influence of Mark Gertler, Bernard Meninsky, and Vladimir Polunin, who was later to teach him how to paint theatrical backdrops flat on the floor. He also attended the Slade between 1934 and 1937, where among the teachers was Cedric Morris, whose school at Pound Farm in Suffolk he visited. On 17 December 1937 he married Marjorie Benedickter (b. 1914), daughter of John Benedickter, of independent means.

Gore began teaching at the Westminster School of Art in 1937 and during the long recess arrived at Les Baux to spend his first summer painting in Provence, a place that was to provide many of his motifs, particularly the red fields and the olive trees, for the rest of his life. In December 1937 he showed thirty paintings at the Redfern Gallery, where the collector Stephen Vlasto offered to subsidize a trip to Greece for six months, resulting in an exhibition at the Galerie Borghese in Paris. Louis Vauxcelles, the art critic who had first coined the term ‘Fauves’, wrote the catalogue introduction. Landscapes predominated but he also painted portraits for his own interest, never to commission. On his return he exhibited at the Stafford Gallery and painted murals for The White Tower, a Greek restaurant in Charlotte Street.

From 1940 Gore served in the Middlesex regiment and then with the Royal Artillery, stationed mainly on the south coast. He wrote instruction manuals on camouflage for the army. He was demobilized in 1946 with the rank of major. He returned to teaching through a position at Epsom, then at St Martin's School of Art. His first marriage, meanwhile, had ended in divorce. A short marriage to Lilli Renée Gaber (b. 1917), daughter of Adolph Gaber, silk merchant, on 13 December 1949 resulted in the birth of a daughter, Georgiana, in 1950. By the following year he had met Constance Irene Smith (b. 1927, daughter of William Henry Smith, company director), who at the time worked at the BBC, and with whom he had two children, Charles (b. 1954) and Geraldine (b. 1957). They married on 27 October 1961, after Gore's second divorce. While their children were still young they joined an evening dance class at the City Literary Institute, which led to the formation of the Balalaika Dance Group, and then a tap dance group. These athletic demands required Gore not only to forsake the Gauloises for which he had become well known but also to receive a replacement knee so that he could continue these enthusiasms with unabated vigour until the end of his life. Alongside his membership of the troupe, often dancing solo, he organized their bookings, scheduling performances at venues as disparate as private parties, the Chelsea Arts Club, and HMP Wormwood Scrubs. His ability to paint stage sets was helpful for creating their backdrops.

In 1951 Gore was appointed head of painting at St Martin's, a post he held until his retirement in 1979. Methuen's publication of Abstract Art (1956) confirmed his ability as a writer, while his tact as an administrator was soon recognized by other institutions as well as his own expanding art school, where he was made vice-principal in 1961. Election as an associate of the Royal Academy in 1964 was soon followed by an invitation to write Painting: Some Basic Principles (1965) as part of the Studio Vista 10/6 (shilling) series, and the catalogue introduction for the John Nash exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1967. In 1969 Cassell published his detailed study of Piero della Francesca's Baptism in the National Gallery as part of Carel Weight's series of Painters on Painting. This revealed his concern with composition and mathematical structure, and he recounted in this and other publications his wrestles with the temptations of abstraction.

Despite the fact that he never knew his father the legacy of the Camden Town School and the Fitzrovia circle shaped Gore's own development as an artist. He favoured luscious greenery bisected by planes to create freely formed shapes and pools of bright colour. His use of receding parallel lines nodded briefly to the Euston Road School's experiments with form, while the scale of his work was facilitated by a large studio space at St Martin's. He held the first of five one-man shows at the Redfern Gallery in 1949, the last taking place in 1962. He contributed to the Contemporary Art Society shows held at the Tate Gallery in 1954, 1956, and 1958. The Mayor Gallery in Cork Street invited him to show in 1958 and 1960, and in 1963 the Juster Gallery in New York offered him a one-man show. However, this coincided with a press strike, and some of the paintings were lost on the return journey by sea.

In 1956 Gore and his family moved to a flat in Elm Park Gardens, Chelsea, where large French windows provided a view captured many times in his paintings, particularly after his retirement. In the 1960s the family also started renting a house in Fornalutx, in northern Majorca, which was the inspiration for many Mediterranean paintings, alongside several visits to Greece. He preferred painting in oil on the spot, using watercolours and sketches to inform his work. In 1976 the Gores bought a house in the village of Bonnieux in Provence, which they visited every summer until 1992. In 1980 he visited the USA for the first time, partly to attend a symposium at Yale on the Camden Town Group facilitated by the London dealer Anthony d'Offay, for whom he wrote entries for catalogues; astonished by the colour that he found in New York city he returned several times until 1986 and these visits occasioned an atypical use of photographs to inform his new work.

The Imperial War Museum appointed Gore a trustee between 1967 and 1984. In 1973 he was elected a Royal Academician and in 1976 he became chairman of the Royal Academy's exhibitions committee, a post he held until 1987, overseeing many important exhibitions in collaboration with the secretary, Norman Rosenthal. British Art in the Twentieth Century (1987) in particular was a critical success and enabled Gore to write with authority about the painters and his father's contribution to the early decades of that century. He was appointed CBE in 1987 and in 1989 Gillian Ayres wrote the introduction for his major Royal Academy retrospective show in which she praised his continuation of a tradition of warmth in French painting. A regular contributor to the summer exhibition, he showed most frequently during his later career at the Phoenix Gallery in Suffolk and Kingston-upon-Thames and at the Fosse Gallery in Stow-on-the-Wold. A view of the Houses of Parliament was commissioned for a poster by London Transport in 1991.

In 1992 Gore visited Bonnieux for the last time; after that, travelling to the hill village became too arduous. He was still working in February 2009 on a large abstract canvas, Sunburst. He died on 31 August 2009 at his home in Elm Park Gardens, of old age. He was survived by his wife, Constance, and his three children.

Magdalen Evans

Sources  

The Times (2 Sept 2009) · Daily Telegraph (3 Sept 2009) · The Guardian (3 Sept 2009) · Evening Standard (28 Jan 2010) · Burke, Peerage · WW (2009) · private information (2013) · b. cert. · m. certs. · d. cert.

Archives  

 

SOUND

 

BL NSA, interview recordings · BL NSA, National Life Stories Collection, artists' lives, F12456-64


Likenesses  

K. Jonzen, portrait, sculpture, terracotta, 1990, repro. in K. Jonzen, Karin Jonzen, sculpture (1994), 95 · J. Lewinski, photograph, 1995, Bridgeman Art Library, London · N. Cunard, photographs, 2007, Rex Features, London · D. Toff, archival inkjet print, 2007, NPG, London · A. K. Purkiss, photographs, 2008, Rex Features, London · G. Deblonde, portrait, repro. in G. Deblonde and M. Gooding, Artists (Tate Gallery, 1999), 37 · obituary photographs

Wealth at death  

£795,531: probate, 11 Oct 2010, CGPLA Eng. & Wales