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Obituary: Tony Lawrence – renowned artist whose works are sought around the world





A HIGHLY respected contemporary artist whose work is sought after by collectors around the world has died at home in Tiptoe at the age of 71.

Anthony Lawrence – known as Tony – painted portraits of Irish poet Seamus Heaney, Lord Yehudi Menuhin, actor Sir Ian McKellan and fellow artist Francis Bacon, among others.

He was also commissioned to paint three chairpersons of London’s famous Reform Club, of which he was a longstanding member.

Tony painted portraits of Irish poet Seamus Heaney, Lord Yehudi Menuhin, actor Sir Ian McKellan and fellow artist Francis Bacon
Tony painted portraits of Irish poet Seamus Heaney, Lord Yehudi Menuhin, actor Sir Ian McKellan and fellow artist Francis Bacon

Much of his work from 1998 was carried out in the New Forest in a studio he rented at ArtsSway.

Born in Cambridge in 1951 to Margaret and Quentin Lawrence, a celebrated film and television director, he experienced a childhood surrounded by the couple’s showbiz friends including Michael Caine and Stanley Baxter, while jazz singer Cleo Laine was his godmother.

From 1969 to 1970 Tony attended St Martin’s School of Art in London. He continued his studies at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art at Oxford University, graduating in 1974.

Tony exhibited in Belgium, Switzerland, Washington DC, Sydney and the Middle East.
Tony exhibited in Belgium, Switzerland, Washington DC, Sydney and the Middle East.

Philip Morsberge, master of drawing at Oxford, later wrote of Tony: “To know Lawrence is to share in his laughter. He is a very droll fellow who keeps his friends in stitches. Typically, the target of his humour is himself.

“But if Lawrence is whimsical about life, he is stone serious about art. Lawrence is a post-modernist who knows what he is about

.”

Tony moved to Milford in 1977 with his wife Lesley who is marketing director at her family’s business Shorefield Holidays. The couple moved to Tiptoe in 2002.

They have five children: Sara, Bobbie, James, George and Caroline. They also have a grandson, Noah.

Much of his work from 1998 was carried out in the New Forest in a studio he rented at ArtsSway
Much of his work from 1998 was carried out in the New Forest in a studio he rented at ArtsSway

A renowned artist, Tony exhibited in Belgium, Switzerland, Washington DC, Sydney and the Middle East.

Despite his fame, his family said he only took commissions he found intellectually stimulating – saying no to most.

As well as the famous people he painted, Tony also made portraits of Martin and Sally Scan, former owners of the Chewton Glen hotel.

Describing his work on the website of Saatchi art gallery, Tony said: “Good art stirs memories of what we already know but have forgotten. Within this sense, you could call it a kind of stimulation process.

“I wake up in the morning and, as have countless people before me, I see the magnificent world around me; there is nothing any artist can do to compete with that. Life then, is my main influence.”

Tony's self-portrait
Tony's self-portrait

At his ArtSway studio, which he rented until 2014, he created some major Dante paintings of which Sir Peter Storhard, former editor of the Times, said: “Look at the works individually and you might not think of the poet at all.

“Taken together, they show a painter’s powerful engagement with the Florentine master of 600 years ago.”

Tony’s family said he will be “sorely missed” but that he “leaves the extraordinary legacy of his vast archive”.

His widow Lesley, highlighted a quote by Seamus Heaney that “the end of art is peace”, adding that her husband was now “at peace and we will miss him forever but his art has a life of its own”.

During lockdown Tony had posted a photo a day on Instagram of his archive.

His family intend to keep the account @anthonylawrenceart going and is organising a major retrospective of his paintings.



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