Sarah Bond looks at a unique exhibition and book showing different views of the ‘Buildings of Kent’ in honour of the late architect, artist and author Roger FitzGerald. They are both launched at the Grierson Galleries in Cranbrook on September 17 and will fulfill his final wish…
Architect Roger FitzGerald, who sadly died in Tunbridge Wells Hospital last month after living in Sevenoaks for more than 30 years, has left behind an extraordinary portfolio of paintings for others to enjoy. They reflect the incredible character of Kent, a county that he loved exploring and capturing on canvas.
As a notable artist, he had previously published books giving his view of the buildings of Britain, London and New York, but when the pandemic hit he was forced to stay local. However that was fortuitous, for this he was delighted to do, as he enjoyed nothing more than venturing out into the Kent countryside with his camera – either on foot with his wife Lynne, or on his bicycle. In addition to buildings, he interpreted streetscapes, seafronts, castles and other scenes with his vivid strokes.
‘He loved to experiment, applying charcoal, ink and collaged elements to paper along with his favoured acrylic paint’
He loved to experiment, applying charcoal, ink and collaged elements to paper along with his favoured acrylic paint, and using tools as diverse as razor blades, rollers and pieces of card. The results are impressionistic and playful, but always attentive to what makes particular buildings human-centric.
The book acknowledges how he was influenced by the great Wealden painters Samuel Palmer and Rowland Hilder, as well as Dover-born artist Mike Bernard, who transformed his approach to texture, colour and abstraction.
Roger’s works have been displayed at Somerset House, The Shard and the Royal Institute of British Architects, and are in private collections across the world.
Roger determinedly continued his artistic quest amid gruelling chemotherapy sessions and medical appointments after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in February 2021. Many of the drawings that appear in the book were created in his final weeks, and it was his greatest last wish that both the book and exhibition would come to fruition after his passing and that the proceeds would be donated to the charity Pancreatic Cancer UK.
In a heartfelt statement posted on his Twitter account on August 9, his family said: “We are devastated to announce that our beloved husband and father died on 6 July 2022 while undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer. He was just 63 years old.
“Roger leaves behind a tremendous legacy. He was a gifted architect and artist, but also kind-hearted, calm and witty gentleman.”
They added: “It was his wish that his final book and exhibition – both named Buildings of Kent – be completed if he passed away.”
Now they have achieved this, with both the book and the paintings going on show at the Grierson Galleries, which he had a long association with: “Roger was both one of our artists who’d exhibited with Grierson Galleries over many years, and also a friend,” said a spokesperson for the gallery, which was formerly based in Sevenoaks.
Personal profits from the exhibition will go to Pancreatic Cancer UK, a charity which supported him and his family after his diagnosis with the disease in February 2021. Grierson Galleries is also donating 10% of its commission to the charity.
Roger moved to Sevenoaks in 1994, after designing a house for his wife and two young sons, James and Will, and he spent nearly four decades at ADP, one of the country’s leading architectural practices, where he became Chairman.
Among his proudest achievements as an architect were an innovative building with a curved roof for Riverhead Infants’ School in Sevenoaks; a visitor reception building for the Palace of Westminster; the conversion of Oxford Castle from a prison to a hotel; and a master plan for the University of Sussex.
Admission to the exhibition is free.
Buildings of Kent books are priced at £10; artworks £200−400; limited edition prints £70−100.
For further information, visit: griersongalleries.com
To see more of Roger’s extraordinary paintings, including a wonderful image of cricket on The Vine and an illustrated map of Sevenoaks, which he called ‘a remarkable town’, visit: rogerfitzgerald.com
Roger FitzGerald’s family say the book Buildings of Kent tells two stories.
Firstly, his paintings, sketches and text display the architecture of Kent and its relationship with the history and geography of the county.
Secondly, there is a more personal story behind it. Roger had long held an ambition to write this book and was undaunted by the prospect of doing so even after being diagnosed with cancer and while undergoing treatment.
Excursions around Kent were fitted in around chemotherapy sessions and the ensuing fatigue. Pen drawings were completed in his Tunbridge Wells hospital room during his final weeks.
The book ends with a painting of Margate that was left unfinished in Roger’s studio before he sadly passed away. Some unfinished text was completed by his son James in line with his father’s wishes.
“This book holds tremendous emotional significance to us as a symbol of his determination in the face of a cruel disease. We hope that it will serve as an inspiration to others,” said Lynne, James and Will.