Michael Morgan (1928-2014) was a renowned West Country artist who enjoyed two distinguished careers firstly in academia and latterly as an artist whose ground-breaking style is widely considered to have added new life to the watercolour medium and subsequently influenced and guided many young artists.
His family fondly recall his frequent refrain “when I retire I’m going to paint”. From childhood, he always enjoyed painting, but he fulfilled his family promise to become an artist after 1985. A prime source of inspiration was the works of the late John Blockley, a noted Cotswold-based artist, who with his painting partner Moira Huntly, regularly organised painting weeks for artist friends who included Martin Procter, Malcolm Edwards, Norma Stephenson and Gillian McDonald.
Favoured locations for these trips were usually upland settings such as Snowdonia, the North York Moors and Pembrokeshire, all locations which have inspired Michael with his recurring themes of isolation and escapism which were to form core ingredients in his paintings. From relatively straightforward watercolours, he evolved a unique genre, painting small but visually powerful paintings. These finely crafted paintings usually consisted of lonely buildings in isolated settings. No animate object was allowed to intrude.
Innovation in terms of how he applied marks to paper, texturing and bold choice of colour gave these studies real presence and power. He was usually coy as to the location or indeed multiple locations that inspired a composition. Similarly he would not discuss the secrets of his technique. The final result, however was work that drew in the viewer.
From 1997, solo shows in a local gallery close to his home near Axminster proved sell-outs. Recognition followed his innovative approach, for works which in their power often seemed to be more akin to oil paintings. In 1998 Michael Morgan won the medal for most outstanding submission by a non-member at the Spring Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours shortly followed by his selection as a member of the RI.
Putting his academic, artistic and administrative skills into focus, he was appointed in 2000 as Chairman of the Board of Trustees and founding academician of the newly formed Exeter-based South West Academy of Fine and Applied Arts (SWAc) which has become a beacon for artists in the South West. He was president of The Honiton Art Society and his active involvement in fund raising and encouragement for students in local schools and colleges led to the naming of the arts building at his local community college in Axminster after him.
Michael Morgan produced moving new interpretations of lonely and beautiful places which imbue a sense of escapism which surely strikes a chord with many in our fast moving and pressured world. Forest Gallery are honoured to be working closely with Michael’s family in bringing to life an extraordinary set of limited edition prints, many of which have never been available until now.