Yesterday I travelled up to London for the funeral of the painter Ken Howard.
The service was at St Mary’s Church,The Boltons, and the burial in the cemetery between Brompton and Fulham Road.
Organised religion occupies the key points in life: birth (the christening service), manhood confirmation and barmitzvah) marriage and death.
I doubt if Ken had any faith – certainly we never spoke of this – but I guess his third wife Dora from Venice would be a practising Catholic. A lady priest officiated at the service.
Some dignitary from the Boltons’ Residents Association spoke on Ken’s life drawing from an excellent obituary in The Guardian and Jeffrey Archer read an extract from Morte’ d’Arthur by Tennyson.
A nice personal touch was to include his paint brushes in the wreath and to place the black wide-brimmed hat he always wore on top of the coffin.
After we walked to the burial grounds. Ken’s plot was a goal kick away from the stadium of his beloved Chelsea.
On the journey to London I read the obituary in the Telegraph.
It was the normal stuff that Ken was more a successful painter than critically-acclaimed.
His work, principally contre-jour, did not vary.
This does not take into account that he was a master of painting light.
There is much envy in the art world and to be popular is not to be third-rate.
Personally I would prefer a Ken Howard on my wall to a Frank Auerbach or Francis Bacon.
I would rather watch an Alan Ayckbourn play than a Harold Pinter.
I don’t give a stuff what that long term partner of the traitor Anthony Blunt, the acerbic Brian Sewell, thinks of him or anyone.
I’m more curious to know why Blunt was never imprisoned and how many lives his treachery cost.
There was in the afternoon a wake at the Chelsea Arts Club but I never feel sociable on such occasions so, when a taxi for hire passed me in the Fulham Road, I flagged it down and took the train from Victoria back to my home town.
Ken’s legacy will live on in his paintings which will become the more collectible.
Like Titian and Monet he lived to a ripe old age and was much respected.
He was also an extremely nice man.
I recalled a memorable dinner with him and art historian Martin Gayford at the Chelsea Arts Club.
Ken felt some similarity with John Constable, recently portrayed in a book by Martin, who was judged unsuitable for his wife Maria Bicknell whose father was advisor to the Prince Regent.
Ken too was judged unworthy of the German family of his second wife Christa Gaa. In his sun-lit grave he had the last laugh.