Gerald Anthony Coles 1929-2004
Painter, Woodcut and Monotype Print-Maker, Stained Glass Designer
This site is dedicated to the memory of Gerald Anthony Coles and to the genius of his art. It has been created and is maintained in conjunction with the inheritor of his estate, Bruce Ogier-Smith, friend and companion of the artist for over 40 years. All works exhibited on the site, even when unsigned, are authenticated as products of Coles’ artistry by Bruce, who retains copyright in the large output of work produced by this most prolific and skilled of artists.
Born in Luton, Bedfordshire – where he spent most of his life – the young, working class Coles defied the conventions of his upbringing to pursue his love of art as a career, first via training at the Luton School of Art and later at the prestigious Slade School of Art in London. Some of the vestiges of post-Victorian life clung to him, though. “He always wore a suit,” his friend recalls, “even when going to the post office.”
Alongside his studies, and afterwards throughout his life as a painter and print-maker, Coles made a relatively meagre living as a stained glass artist. He was first employed immediately after leaving school by Harper and Hendra Studios in Harpenden. It was here, in 1943-47, that he assisted Hugh Easton in the design of the stained glass window in the Battle of Britain Chapel in Westminster Abbey. His association with Hugh Easton lasted more than twenty years and, independently, he was commissioned to undertake other stained glass design projects in Britain and abroad.
Such work sustained him in a relatively simple lifestyle whilst granting him the freedom to indulge his passions for painting and print-making.
Bruce Ogier-Smith recalls that Coles was an unambitious artist in spite of winning prizes and scholarships which allowed him to travel abroad, most notably through France, pushing a pram full of his art materials past many bewildered Customs Officers and amusing French villagers en route. The eccentric British artist made his mark in France. He studied at the Ėcole des Beaux Arts and stayed in Paris for a while where he experienced probably the only great romance in his life when he met a young lady there. The relationship did not last and Coles reverted to a quiet, somewhat singular lifestyle with only a few close friends and occasional art-related trips abroad. He shied away from publicity, declining even to teach art, claiming that creativity is not something one can teach. For relaxation away from the paints and inks of his art, Coles was a devotee of jazz and opera.
Gerald Anthony Coles’ work is unique and striking, and occasionally macabre, although there was nothing of the macabre about the man himself. He had a dry sense of humour and was interested only in pursuing boldness of form utilising techniques he had developed under the tutelage of Ceri Richards and Stanley Jones at the Slade. He was strongly influenced by luminaries such as Graham Sutherland, Buckland Wright and Henry Moore.
Amongst many other places, he has exhibited at Browse and Delbaco, the O’Hana Gallery, both located in London and, earlier, in 1959, at the Maison Internationale, the Cité Université de Paris.
He became an Elected Associate of the British Society of Master Glass Painters in 1975.
Samples of Coles’ work are held at the Slade School of Art, the BritishMuseum and UniversityCollege.
Bruce Ogier-Smith has gradually released a variety of paintings and prints into the public domain. It is his wish to see the genius of his late friend, Gerald Anthony Coles, more widely recognised and enjoyed by the discerning collector.
Individuals or commercial concerns interested in acquiring image rights to any of the works should first make enquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org
© HD Books and Collectables 2012-2013