Fred Cuming RA

Books & Films

A Figure in the Landscape

'A Figure in the Landscape' is a biography and art book about Fred Cuming, published in hardback in 2000 by Unicorn Press. It is illustrated with over 70 paintings and photographs, most of which are in colour, with an autobiographical text from Fred Cuming himself, edited by Christian Tyler and introduced by Richard Homes OBE. This edition is quite rare and currently valued at over £250 on Abebooks.co.uk and other book specialist websites.

New and Updated

A new paperback book of Fred's work is currently in process. It will include many additional pictures of Fred's work and an extended biography, and is currently estimated to be published towards the end of 2013.

Introduction from 'A Figure in the Landscape':

"On almost any day, at almost any season, in almost any weather (including snow) over the last thirty years, you could find a solitary man working at an easel under the big skies of Romney Marsh, somewhere along the Kent-Sussex borders between Folkestone, Hastings and the sea.

This figure in a landscape has a shock of dark, curly hair (now somewhat silvered), startlingly blue eyes, and wears a very old fisherman's jersey. He paints with quick, left-handed strokes, bending in towards the canvas (actually it's hardboard), and then stepping back to survey the horizon, in a kind of continual slow foxtrot. When he fixes a detail, he suddenly becomes quite still, the fine point of his brush steadied by resting his little finger (second joint) against the board.

If you stopped to ask about the picture, you would almost certainly be told a joke, delivered with a sharp cackle of laughter and a mischievous hunching of the shoulders, like a jackdaw popping out of a chimney pot. (His joke about painting in the snow, for instance, turns on the fact that once, after two hours a worried local farmer turned up with a full glass of Scotch, "because he thought a painter was someone who sat in a nice warm studio. Haha! Very impressed! Lovely old chap!"). But if you looked at the picture itself, you would see something amazing coming into being: what the English poet William Wordsworth once called:

"the light that never was on sea or land,
the consolation and the poet's dream"

And about this, he will say much less, if anything at all, except maybe if you're lucky - "nice colours!"

Fred Cuming R.A. belongs to the great, descriptive tradition of English Romantic landscape painting which has flourished for two centuries since Turner and Constable ('the two insidious masters' he calls them respectfully), but which is now - like the landscape itself - under threat. He will joke (again) that he belongs to a disappearing world, "we're set in amber, really."

But the essential thing about Cuming is that he is also, and perhaps primarily, a visionary painter. Though he has developed the most delicate, painstaking descriptive techniques, what he really does is re-invent the world through colour. It is both a recognisable place, which can be visited; and yet a completely transformed object of poetic intensity. His world feels as if it has been dreamt, or remembered from a dream, suffused with feelings that can never quite be named.

It is genuinely difficult to get him to talk about his own work. In an age of self-publicity and smooth-tongued personalities, this natural modesty has proved a distinct set-back. Though one of the youngest painters ever elected to the Royal Academy (an Associate at the age of 39 in 1969, and a full RA in 1974), he has had - almost unbelievably - only a single essay dedicated to his painting as a whole. This was written by the distinguished columnist Christian Tyler, and published in The Financial Times in 1990."

Pictures from 'A Figure in the Landscape'

The pictures below are from the book, displayed in the order that they appear.

On Film

APV Films has produced two films of Fred Cuming at work, The Art of Fred Cuming RA and Atmosphere of Landscape.

Atmosphere of Landscape, Reviews

Fred Cuming is one of the most respected landscape artists of the present day, and he is particularly admired for his ability to capture atmosphere and a powerful sense of place. His work is sensitive, immensely thoughtful and considered, poetic and inspirational. For his new film Atmosphere of Landscape, Fred is at St Michael's Mount in Cornwall. Here, he makes oil studies and also colour notes in watercolour of a variety of subjects, which will possibly lead to further ideas or more resolved paintings later.

It is fascinating to watch Fred at work, to hear his thoughts about aspects such as composition and light, tone and colour relationships, and to see how he develops ideas on a bigger scale in his studio. His aim, he says, 'is for paintings that not only stimulate my imagination, but require the onlooker to take part as well'.

THE ARTIST - May 2011, Review by Oliver Lange

Interview

Fred talks about his views on painting in an interview with Peter Faulkner: