Hew Purchas: back in the picture
April 21, 2017
April 21, 2017
An exhibition of the work of former QE Head of Art Hew Purchas held after his death in 2016 proved such a hit that it has now been repeated.
Entitled Hew Purchas re-visited, the second retrospective took place in April 2017 at the Sackhouse in Hew’s adopted home town, Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk. First held in September last year, the Wells Maltings Trust states on its website that it decided to repeat the exhibition because it was so well-attended and was highly popular.
Hew, who taught at QE from 1956 to 1987, died in February 2016 at the age of 82, leaving a widow, Frances, whom he had married in 2003 and who curated the exhibition.
Educated at Mill Hill School and Chelsea School of Art, Hew was appointed by Headmaster E H Jenkins as a part-time Art teacher. At that time, the Art department shared its room with the Music Department. In the early 1960s, his role became full-time and, with the expansion of the School at that time, he duly became Head of Art.
He was much involved in producing sets for School plays, was very active in ensuring picture displays around the School were changed regularly and took pupils to art exhibitions as well as on field trips with the Geography Department to North Wales.
“Old Elizabethans have described Hew as a much-loved teacher, a mild and kindly man who inspired his pupils to achieve their potential with careers within the art world or more simply to develop a capacity to appreciate art as part of their life’s enrichment,” his former colleague at QE, Neil Kobish, wrote in his obituary written for The Elizabethan magazine. “He remained in contact with a remarkable number of his former students and he was always delighted to welcome any who cared to call on him at his home in Wells.”
Among those who have paid tribute to him is OE David Leake, who well remembers his Sixth Form Art teacher from the early 1970s. It was, he says, “a wholly enjoyable time spent creating under the kind, supportive tutelage of HP. As well as being an inspiring teacher, Hew was a hugely gifted exponent of landscape and seascape painting.”
Three pictures painted by him currently grace the walls of the School. One is a portrait of E H Jenkins. Another is of the School’s original home in Tudor Hall. The third is a copy of Tudor artist Nicholas Hilliard’s Phoenix portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, produced with permission from the National Portrait Gallery. Neil added: “The minutiae of the lace, jewels and embroidery in this portrait have to be seen to be believed and Hew reproduced these with consummate skill.” The School recently commissioned a plaque for this portrait to honour Hew for his work.
Having acquired an 18th-century cottage in Wells following a summer holiday in Norfolk in the late 1960s, he retired there in 1987 and immersed himself in the local artistic and cultural community, while also concentrating on his own painting.
He exhibited several times at the Royal Academy with the New English Art Club and the Royal Society of British Artists and also had several one-man mixed exhibitions.