JULIAN FELLOWES ON PEREGRINE HEATHCOTE
Figurative Art has had a bumpy ride in recent times. Just as Corbusier decided any architecture not demonstrating its ‘function’ was petit bourgeois, and thereby condemned us to three quarters of a century of publicly funded ugliness, so the Powers of the Artistic Establishment decided after the war to disinherit skill and promote whim as the most suitable school for today. But, over the years, some of us have grown tired of piles of bricks and old tents and videos of mouldering carrots. We are exhausted by the need to pretend these unlovely efforts have merit. Every century, to a degree, has promoted the excellence of the King’s New Clothes but our own era has exceeded most in its enthusiasm to celebrate the temporary and the hollow.
It is therefore a relief, as well as a pleasure, to discover that the real skills and older traditions, in other words the very craft of painting, has not died. The techniques and disciplines of former centuries do survive. Like early Christians, they are embattled and they must shift for support in a dogmatic and hostile art world, but they are there.
Peregrine Heathcote first developed his ability at the Heatherly School in Chelsea but when he wanted to take things further, he was faced with a dilemma. Visiting one prominent art school on a particularly cold day, he suggested that they might all benefit if the old radiator in the corner was turned on. The shocked administrator told him in no uncertain terms that the old radiator in question was in fact a sculpture of some distinction. At that moment, Peregrine knew he would have to look beyond the English art world with its rigid and lacklustre didacticism if he wanted to refine his own gift, and so it proved. Fiercely encouraged by his bewitching and indomitable mother, Lesley, he decided on the Fine Art Academy in Florence. Three years of study in that most beautiful of cities showed and explained the techniques of the Masters and allowed him to develop them in his own way and to suit his own vision. He returned to London and his career began. He paints in the school one might describe as romantic realism, following the traditions of portraiture established by Holbein or Geerhardts, which trace their line through the work of Ingres or, later, the Pre-Raphaelites and Angeli, to our own day. These are large footprints, of course, but I believe Peregrine is well on the way to filling them.