Archive for January, 2011

Kitty Godley obituary – The Guardian 20/1/11


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January 21st, 2011

Farewell Kitty.


I received the sad news that Kitty Godley had died last Monday morning from her daughter the following day. I think we all open e-mails in a rather automatic way, each one seems to have the same weight and importance but when I resad the message I was really taken back by the sad news. I ‘ve left a few days before I posted anything because I hadn’t seen anything in the press until Fridays’s obituary piece in The Times.

I remember when I was about 16 seeing a poster of a profile portrait of Kitty by Lucian Freud which was in the collection ate the old Walsall museum and art gallery. I immediately loved it and at this age had timmid hopes / aspirations  of being an artist. I went into the gallery , the first time I had ever dared set foot into a gallery in fact feeling crushed by the feeling that I shouldn’t actually be here and hoped no one would speak to me and I looked at the painting that I had seen in the poster. As the years went on I went to art college and graduated and worked professionally, almost forgetting about the profile of Kitty having devoured so many images over the years. It was still at the beack of my mind and towards the millenium I started to wonder if Kitty was still alive. I carried on working on my own work and commissions and around 2005 I thought right, if I’m going to catch up with Kitty I’ll haveto do it soon. I liaised with The New Art Gallery ,Walsall and got in touch. I first spoke to her on the telephone, I speak quite quickly, like a machine gun some say,  and with a broad accent and Kitty spoke very very quietly and slowly, almost in a kind of distracted way. Kitty was extremely obliging and agreed to allow me to visit. It was a idealistic gentile picture postcard little country village, thatched cottages, duck ponds and village pubs. I immagined the locals to be like the Warmington on Sea home guard or John Gielgud and it certainly felt more like the 1940’s than 2005.

I walked up the overgrown pathway to Kitty’s door. I hadn’t seen any photographs of her since the 1950’s and as soon as I saw Kitty I thought “Wow, waht a fantastic face”. I went in and had a glass of water with her. “I like your wallpapaer” I said. “Morris” said Kitty. It was very much the bohemian cottage I would have expected , Aga, log burner, and paintings, drawings and etchings on the the wall. But not your ordinary pictures. Kitty’s family donated their art collection to Walsall Art Gallery in 1972 and what a collection it was, Van Gough, Picasso, Constable, Freud the list goes on. So, as I walked around Kitty’s house I walked passed a Courbet landscape or a Goya etching. Kitty was a keen painter herself and in one corner was an easel with a painting in progress. Celotaped onto the wall was a newspaper cutting about her former husband, Lucian Freud’s recent exhibition. I was trying to settle down to the sitting but was constantly interrupted by her cleaner who was dusting and hoovering around us, then a carpenter came to work on the front door  and later came the meals on wheels for Kitty and her husband Wynne. So, there was a kind of Chaos going on but we managed to settle an chat. We both shared  the same favourite Freud portrait which was of John Minton.  Kitty talked about when she used to be married to Freud and Francis Bacon used to come over for the weekend and disappear to the next village in pursuite of male company and gambling. Kitty really didn’t care for Bacon she said. Towards the end of the sitting I met her husband Wynne Godley and we had a long chat about America and the two of them living in New York in the 50’s and how glamorous that seemed to me. I could tell that they loved eachother very much and I think their relationship is the thing that  I remember most about my visit. Despite the chaotic sitting I left feeling invigorated because Kitty had let me into her world  I knew I’d got some great material to work with.



January 17th, 2011


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