Ronald Morgan Sen RBA Hon ROI
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.
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 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, 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.
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.
That is so sad, such a lovely artist
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
So very sad to hear the news of dear Ronald Morgan – a great art friend for many years.
Such very sad news about Ron, I will miss him
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!
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.
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.
Ron had been a good friend to me for over forty years now and counting
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.
Very sad news about Ronald Morgan; he will be in all our thoughts and prayers.
I’m so sorry to hear of this news!
So sad for Ronald, my thoughts are with him
John and I are so very sorry to hear about Ronald ‘s fall. We are thinking of him with sadness
So sorry for the sad news, such a nice man, a real gentleman
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.
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.
[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.
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.
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.
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.