John Sergeant (1937-2010)



Although Sergeant was born in London, he and his family moved to Kent after being bombed out in the war. He was educated at Faversham and then Canterbury College of Art from 1948 to 1957. He met John Ward in 1958 and at his encouragement entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1959, winning the Drawing Prize in his final year in 1962, and marrying Carolyn. From then until 1969 he taught part-time at the Canterbury College of Art and the Dover and Folkstone Art Schools and worked to various commissions, including book jacket design, at which he excelled, and occasionally assisting John Ward. In 1981, inspired by the
Interiors exhibition at Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, he concentrated for two years on making a series of room-portraits at Castle Coole, Stowell Park and Deene Park. Deciding on a major change in routine, he moved to Wales in 1983, working in his new favourite medium of charcoal estompé on Ingres paper that his obituarist in The Independent Peyton Skipwith compared to those of Seurat: ‘some of his simplest drawings ... have the statuesque dignity of the French master. He would use charcoal in much the same way as a sculptor uses clay, teasing out the modulation of his subject,

working from rich black to the very palest shades of greys, just leaving small areas of untouched paper for the highlights; or, if using a dark paper, these might be enhanced by the application of a little Chinese white ... he loved chiaroscuro and relied almost entirely on the tint of his carefully chosen Ingres papers to illumine and enrich the subtlety of his lustrous black charcoal drawings. He regarded colour as an intrusive and unnecessary distraction, though he did allow himself the occasional indulgence when the subject, such as a stylish pair of 1940s red shoes, or the eyelet on a luggage-tag, dictated’.

He held one-man exhibitions at the Maas Gallery in 1986 and 1988. In 1989 he was asked by the Prince of Wales to contribute drawings to his book Visions of Britain. In 1991 he accompanied the Prince of Wales on an official visit to Prague, and later that year held an exhibition of his pictures from the trip, his third with Maas. In 1994, he participated in Three Contemporary Masters: John Sergeant, Jehan Daly, John Ward RA at Hazlitt’s. His last solo exhibition in London was at Colnaghi’s in March 2006.