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Popular teacher's work shares gallery space with famous friends

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 13, 2012

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When Clifford Fishwick was head of Exeter College of Art, he would often invite the St Ives painters to teach his students, among them Peter Lanyon, Trevor Bell and Karl Wesche and Bryan Winter, all of whom he counted as friends.

But the popular teacher was himself a talented artist. A keen climber and sailor, he depicted the landscape with the same painterly abstraction which made the St Ives artists famous.

His paintings, which include studies made while climbing on Lundy island, are on display alongside work by his students and artist friends, including Bryan Wynter, Trevor Bell and Peter Lanyon, at Falmouth Art Gallery.

The exhibition, Fishwick and Friends, ties in with a book about the artist by Peter Davies, an expert on the St Ives School, who knew Clifford in the last ten years of his life, when he lived in Topsham.

Born in Liverpool, Clifford had lived in Devon for 50 years, ever since arriving in Exeter in 1947 to take up a teaching post at the city's art college, which he was to lead for more than 30 years. He died in 1997 aged 74.

Peter got to know Clifford after he reviewed one of his exhibitions. "I really liked him," he says. "Because he was modest in a way, and liked his climbing and painting. He didn't do the dinner party circuit like some of the St Ives painters, and he is really not known in the same way.

"I think he is underrated. He was very prolific and he really did a lot of work, despite having a lot of other commitments."

The Falmouth show includes Clifford's study of a downpour over cliffs on Lundy Island where he would go climbing with the poet Al Alvarez, famous for reviewing Sylvia Plath's poetry. He did a series of paintings around his many climbing trips to the island in the 1960s.

"His work belongs to that painterly semi-abstraction of the St Ives School," says Peter. "His love of the landscape, of course, is shared with the St Ives School. In the Lundy one you can still see a semblance of the subject, but at the same time there is a lot of symbolism and abstraction."

The exhibition at Falmouth School of Art also includes paintings and drawings by Clifford Fisher's students, among them a study of boats by the late Jack Pender, born in Mousehole, who shared a flat in Exeter with Clifford, and Dan Davidson, whose painting of the Teignbridge to Dawlish railway line, shows the sea crashing onto a suited passenger on a train which is only visible as an outline.

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