Tribute to Ely artist who was his own man

If I lost some faith in him it mattered not. He was his own man and that is the best tribute. No Ely art lover should miss seeing his work.

THE common dilemma for those embarking on a career as an artist is how to survive while working to become established, and indeed, profitable. Frequently the answer is teaching an art, and in itself, that demands full commitment and once undertaken it drains creative energy. Most of my fellow students of long ago vanished into teaching, but one shinning example of full commitment to his art and full-time teaching to become triumphant in both can be seen at the Old Fire Engine House in Ely this month. I find it unique and it should not be missed. When I was an art student many years ago a young teacher arrived who was actually only nine months younger than I. He never officially taught me but I tapped him for more encouragement than any other teacher and we became friends for life.

John Bolam had no enemies. He was a man without anger, full of the joys of art, fully committed in his teaching and dedicated to his young family and always on the move to further his art. Eventually he became head of the Cambridge School of Art and his worked thinned out. I could never see him recovering but once he retired as head he picked up pace, quality, depth and richness in his work and rose higher as a painter than ever before. The proof of this is in the exhibition of works at the Fire Engine House which range from 1947 to very recently. John died two years at 86. His range of colour is a revelation. He gladly identified with the post-war neo-romantic movement confined to Britain and knew himself better than we knew him. If I lost some faith in him it mattered not. He was his own man and that is the best tribute. No Ely art lover should miss seeing his work.

ANTHONY DAY

Pond Green


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