The consummate painter of seasonal changes in parks and gardens, who was elected to the Royal Academy in 1992, is recalled by his friend and fellow Academician Paul Huxley RA
When autumn comes I think more than ever of Adrian and his paintings. His views of parks with their fiery reds, acidic yellows and rich maroons and violets upset our assumptions of what the English landscape is. It was the seasons and the times of the day that first became Adrian’s real subject in the works for which he became best known.
We met through teaching in the early 1960s but I first got to know him towards the end of that decade when we worked together at the Central School of Art in London. His approach to teaching was hugely collegial. We held exhaustive group tutorials when we would discuss a student’s paintings together with the students and other tutors. The conversation, which would range across history, literature, poetry and music, as well as art, would continue between us through lunchtime and back at Adrian’s home in the evening. It never mattered that our paintings were not of the same bent, there were always so many more things to share.
He was living on the top floor of a Nash terrace overlooking Regent’s Park. From there he could observe the seasons as they wrought change on the landscape before him. To translate this to canvas was the conundrum he relished.
I once saw a pile of diagrams on his table that explored a variety of grid patterns. I asked him: ‘What’s this?’ He immediately slapped his hand over them and for a moment I was the abstract painter intruding on the painter of trees. He roared with laughter.
Adrian once said to me that he never knew what his father would say next and that he felt he owed it to the young not to be a boring old fart, not to be predictable. What Adrian had to say was always unexpected, usually provocative and often hilariously funny. To have a conversation with him was to be challenged and bewildered. And he had the ability to illustrate his ideas from a wealth of quotations, from Shakespeare, or Yeats or Auden to the lyrics of a rock ’n’ roll song or the words of a popular comedian.
When my namesake, Aldous Huxley, died in his Hollywood home, his neighbour, Igor Stravinsky, remarked that he had not just lost his best friend but his encyclopaedia too. Whenever Stravinsky wanted the answer to something he only had to go next door to ask. All of us tap into the knowledge of our friends, as well as vesting in them the shared references and anecdotes that help to enrich our memory and wisdom. Stravinsky was right: when your best friend dies, you don’t just tragically lose a person you love but also a part of your shared knowledge of life.