Little Waldingfield History Society was thrilled to welcome Guy Madgwick and his sister Fiona Raymond to the Parish Room on Wednesday when, on an extremely cold and foggy night, 40 members came to hear about their artist father. Clive Madgwick was a well known and well loved dentist turned artist who lived in ‘Churchside', in Church Road, Little Waldingfield for many years from 1965. As an added bonus, LWHS members played their part by bringing in their prints and original works of art by Clive for us to create a pop up Madgwick art gallery; over 40 paintings ranging from the fairly small to the really quite large appeared on the night; trustees are most indebted to members for their valiant efforts, achieved despite the most inclement frosty and foggy weather.
Sadly Fiona was feeling quite under the weather and, most unfortunately, had to leave before Guy could begin his talk; this was a great shame as he did a truly wonderful job describing Clive's upbringing, his family and his work, both as dentist and artist.
We heard that Clive Madgwick was born into a medical family in Surrey, in 1934, being the second of three sons; he was not interested in many sports but was keen on tennis, with what he described as his ‘killer spin' serve. He was also interested in things that went bang, one day destroying the front doorstep of the family house after ‘borrowing' some detonators and fuses from a Home Guard hut; it seems that after lighting the fuses, he only just dropped them in time to avoid serious injury.
Clive's artistic talent, which incredibly Guy told us was entirely self taught, first evidenced itself whilst he was at Epsom College, which he went to when aged 14. Later, and following in the family tradition, he read Dentistry at Guy's Hospital in London before joining the RAF as a dentist - National Service wasn't finally abolished until December 1960. Following marriage to Sara in 1960, Fiona was born at RAF Acklington, in Northumberland, whilst Guy was born a couple of years later at Clive's last RAF posting in Aden, South Yemen.
Family life in Little Waldingfield began in 1965 after Clive left the RAF and joined a dental practice in Friar's Street, Sudbury. Being a family man building his medical work, there was no artistic output at this stage, but when he was struck down by a serious bout of Glandular Fever in 1968, Clive rediscovered his artistic talents. To keep himself occupied he began sketching local houses, initially in pen and ink, then in watercolour and finally acrylics; the owners rather liked his drawings and the rest, as they say, was history.
In 1973 he married Joan and two more children followed later, Simon in 1974 and Charlotte in 1977, both being very much part of the community during Clive's time in Little Waldingfield.
By the mid 1970s, what had started out as a hobby was developing more and more with Clive having to juggle dental work, family life and an increasing demand for his art. Living and working in rural Suffolk, surrounded by beautiful countryside led to him focus upon agricultural, hunting and shooting subjects, including horses and sheep. As his reputation grew in the late 70s / early 80s, he began exhibiting more frequently, with regular spots at the Haste Gallery in Ipswich, the Phoenix Art Gallery in Lavenham and the Chimney Mill Gallery in Bury St Edmunds. He then became a member of the Society of Equestrian Artists, the United Society of Artists and the Royal Society of British Artists; along the way, he also won the Royal Landscape Prize in 1985.
Clive's ability to capture detailed landscapes secured major commissions from industrial clients including: Boots, Calor Gas, Abbey National Building Society (showcasing abbeys from around the UK) and Manns Claas (showing combines at work in farming environments). A huge personal achievement came in 1989 when the Queen saw a print of Buckingham Palace on a Christmas card and asked whether the original painting was available. As this had been sold to the card publishing company, with their permission, Clive then painted another copy, presenting it to her majesty in a private ceremony which, Guy told, us meant a lot to his father. The picture was hung in the private royal collection at Windsor castle, thankfully surviving the great fire there in 1992; it hangs there to this day, along with a couple of other Madgwick originals.
Clive then began to travel around Europe, painting scenes ranging from French street cafés to grand Italian vistas. Guy told us that at this point his father began producing his finest works with dentistry taking more and more of a back seat, and in 1992 Clive focussed solely on painting for a living - a brave decision for a successful family man. He went on to win further awards which continued to reinforce his repuation as one of Britain's most popular and successful landscape artists, being popularly known as the modern Constable, with his works selling around the world. Interestingly, Fiona later observed that her father had to add additional colour - for example red poppies - to his English landscapes when selling his paintings or prints into the US.
In order to create his art, Guy told us that Clive first took many photographs of potential scenes whilst also maintaining / building a library of interesting trees and other objects which he could then paint into a scene where he felt this would improve the overall composition. Like may artists, Clive Madgwick made full use of artistic licence, moving buildings, roads, trees and other objects to create precisely what he wanted; given his comercial success, this was clearly also what the public wanted. Guy also told us that his father could create a painting in two or three days, regularly completing three or more paintings in a week; apparently he could also paint whilst playing / talking / spending time with his children, something that amazed the audience.
Guy then estimated that his father created perhaps thousands of paintings in his lifetime, and most intriguingly appears to have created photographic records of many / all of his paintings, dating and keeping them in large binders similar to postcard albums. Guy and Fiona brought three binders with them, from the ten or so volumes very recently discovered at their mother's house, so that members could peruse and perhaps trace the record of their own paintings. It is possible that the family will in future do something more with this invaluable record of Clive Madgwick's work, something the History Society would love to see come to fruition.
Clive Madgwick R.B.A. died far too early and quite suddenly in 2005, aged just 70, well loved both by his family and by the legions of fans who continue to enjoy his skillful and accomplished artwork today.
Following the talk, trustees cleared away chairs, brought out the refreshments and members had the opportunity to closely examine the many examples of his work and truly appreciate the huge talent Clive Madgwick so clearly possessed; judging by the time members spent viewing the prints, original works of art and binders of his work, this was an opportunity fully grasped with both hands.
Our next event will be on 17th February at 7.30 in The Parish Room Little Waldingfield, when Robert Leader will take us ‘In search of Secret Suffolk', an illustrated talk with over 100 images that covers the heritage and history of Suffolk.
Focusing on abbeys, castles, guildhalls & stately homes, Robert will take us on a fantastic journey that follows the course of major rivers to build a comprehensive picture of the county of Suffolk as a whole - it sounds amazing and we can't wait.