Chantry Fine Art

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Robert Norman Hepple









Robert Norman Hepple was born in London on 18th May 1908.


Hepple came from a dynasty of painters, being the son of the artist Robert Hepple and the nephew of Wilson Hepple. He was a popular portrait painter for members of the Royal Family. During the Second World War he was an official war artist attached to the National Fire Service. He was the President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters (1978-1982)


A proud professional painter - especially of portraits. His abilities brought important commissions from all walks of life, royalty, the law, industry and high society, as well as a miscellany of odd bodies whose personality took his fancy.


The years during which Hepple worked offered few honours for portrait-painters. His election to the Royal Academy was just in the days when there were enough members who respected traditional work to elect him, but the RA was intent on purging its walls of lord mayors, generals and suchlike public figures.


Hepple prided himself on being a professional painter. He studied the art of portrait-painting in all its aspects. By nature he seemed a taciturn man, but with a sitter before him he had a flow of talk which ensured that the boredom of sittings did not stale the atmosphere. He was shrewd about his sitters, adept at finding a subject of mutual interest and import. He never 'deigned' to paint anyone, but sought for a likeness and a celebration of his subject.


Once the sitting was over he became a very private person. Usually a portrait-painter of his eminence would lead a fairly social life - and it would be good for business - but Hepple found relief from the strains of portrait-painting in rambles round salerooms and junk-shops. And houses. He had a passion for houses, finding odd places which he would do up himself, searching out building yards for floors and doors and hammering and sawing with real happiness. He enjoyed the good things of life, but in his own quiet way; he had a house and boat on Lake Garda where he holidayed with his beautiful red-headed wife Jill and their son and daughter.


His eminence and success led to his becoming President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. Painters are often given to long-winded ramblings and he wasn't a tolerant man if he thought rubbish was being talked.


Blindness had brought his painting to an end, and crossing a road in Richmond he was knocked down by a car and taken to hospital with a broken arm and leg and dreadful cuts and bruises. However, this brought out the cussedness which made him so endearing - he never lost consciousness and relished the new life he found around him in a public ward - but the operations and repairs were in the end too much even for his remarkable spirit and strength and he died suddenly on 3 January 1994.


[These notes are taken from an obituary written by John Ward - January 1994]



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