Denny, the free spirit who painted Mandela’s portrait
Last updated at 13:25, Wednesday, 30 April 2008
The reputation for the Bohemian lifestyle of an art student proved altogether too daunting for Denny Gaudin’s parents.
It was, she admits, an experience she would have gladly embraced. “But my parents would not allow me to go to art college. They felt it would be a bad influence!”
Instead Keswick artist Denny went to a training college in Windsor to train as a nursery nurse.
Happily art was never far from her heart and she has been painting and undertaking commissions throughout the 48 years of her married life.
Commissions which have included a former Prime Minister and his wife, church leaders and even an opportunity to meet Nelson Mandela, who she painted after his release from lengthy imprisonment in South Africa.
Painting has played a big part in Denny Gaudin’s life from an early age. “The one thing I felt at ease with at school was art,” she said.
For three years Denny taught in a nursery school in Natal and the African experience allowed her free rein to paint on the walls.
Back in Britain she returned to her first love of painting and drawing, although she could have been deterred by an early commission from a housewife friend to paint a large oil of a yacht race with the north wind blowing, trees bending and the yacht sailing.
“Her husband couldn’t stand it,” she said. “I made some changes and from that I have never been without commissions in the whole of my married life.”
Denny used to live in John Major’s Huntingdon constituency. He originally asked her to paint his wife Norma before he became Prime Minister and subsequently he wanted a painting to go alongside that.
As a busy politician it wasn’t easy for Mr Major to spend much time with Denny, but she already had drawings made of the underlying structure of his features and saw him on television virtually every day, plus the times he came back to his constituency.
“Portrait artists have the ability to form a picture memory which can be brought to mind,” she explained.
Denny was herself the subject of a portrait commissioned by her parents when she was 17. “The artist put me on a pedestal dressed in a peasant blouse. My parents didn’t like it at all. In fact they hated it so much they put it in the attic and years later my father suggested I paint a seascape over it. Instead I learned from it.”
Denny and husband Ian came to the Lake District to live 17 years ago. He was a former pupil of Sedbergh School and before that his school was evacuated to Windermere. We felt, having lived in and enjoyed East Anglia for so long, we would have a change and live and work near friends in this area and closer to one of our four sons,” said Denny.
During her time in Cambridgeshire, Denny undertook one commission from a local accountancy firm to paint 10 scenes of the city on one canvas.
She was also commissioned to paint Oliver Cromwell’s mother and Cromwell himself, on horseback, for the Ely Tourist Office and to restore an oil painting of the Dean of Ely, painted in 18960, now hanging in the Cathedral.
In the 1970s Denny established a group of eight artists who held annual exhibitions over a period of 38 years, attracting more than a thousand visitors each time.
Her portraits include the sculptor Laurence Broderick, the Bishop of Schleswig Holstein and Ian Presst, director of the RSPB.
During her life in the Lake District, Denny’s artistic talents have been seen in hospitals, residential homes and in Keswick’s Drop In Centre in Heads Road where she painted a large mural featuring some familiar local scenes.
She has also penned poetry and librettos and has a small book of what she calls “funky poems” coming out on May 5 to go alongside a “retrospective” exhibition she is holding in Keswick.
She has written two children’s books for charities, containing her own illustrations, and a few years ago she wrote Flossie The Pigeon And The Theatre to raise funds for the theatre project in Keswick.
She said: “To have a retrospective art exhibition often implies that the artist has died. Hopefully that won’t happen quite yet. But I am doing what I call a ‘retrospective’ and contemporary charity exhibition from May 5 to 10 at the Drop In Centre.
“We moved house from the countryside into the town, which in way felt rather sad, and I felt I needed to be refreshed in my painting life.
“All the charities represented at the exhibition have touched our lives, or those of our friends, in some way over recent years. The good humour with which we cheer each other along the way helps to make this area the wonderful community it is and I hope to make available enough material of my art to enable lots of people to buy something.
“There will be cards, originals and prints, small and large oil paintings and water colours covering many subjects.”
The good causes which will benefit are Hospice at Home, Friends of the Mary Hewetson Hospital in Keswick, the West Cumbria Branch of the Parkinson’s Society, Churches Together in Keswick and the choice charity of the Drop In Centre.
The exhibition is open from 10am to noon and from 2pm to 4.30pm in the building next to Keswick Library and Denny, who is a member of the Keswick Society of Art, will be on hand most days to give talks about her artistic work, the creation of the mural, and to read from her children’s book.
First published at 11:43, Wednesday, 30 April 2008
Published by http://www.newsandstar.co.uk
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