Madeleine Rampling remembers, as
a child, all her mother's books by Bernard Berenson by her bedside.
She says "My best subject at school was of course....art.
I dreamed of dressing like Dorelia, and tried to paint like Augustus
John. I had, by the age of twelve, decided that I wanted to become
a portrait painter".
At finishing school in Florence,
I studied drawing under the rigorous tutelage of Signorina Nerina
Simi. Her father had been the teacher of Pietro Annigoni. And
Annigoni's then students, Antonio Ciccone,* Luciano Guanieri and
Romano Steffanelli; were working there too. The atmosphere of
concentration in the Studio was electric
the only sounds
cutting that heavy air, were the scratching of finely pointed
charcoal pencils interspersed with frustrated sighs!
I returned to London and the following
September, and enlisted at the Chelsea Polytechnic. I wanted to
continue a classical training; but sadly already the attitude
of 'modern art school mentality' had already struck . No anatomy,
no technique, no drawing. We were made to paint bottles for two
terms... exceedingly frustrated, and deeply disappointed... I
Then came the shock of my Mother's
Some months later I was spotted
by the photographer Claude Virgin. For three years I worked as
a photographic model with the Peter Lumley agency. Art Studio
became Photographic Studio - it was a bit like Funny Face
! I found modelling too easy
I got bored. The challenge
to become a serious artist kept on nagging at me. I decided that
the of life model too ephemeral. I hung up my false eyelashes
and retired from the scene. For a time I regretted this period
of my life, believing it had not helped my art. However, it has
since proved to have been immensely helpful with the way I photograph
Again back to art
to the studio
of Zsuzsi Roboz. I also began to study sculpture under Cubit Beavis
at the Heatherley School of Art . Then a digression: I worked
as a salesgirl for Mark Birley at Hermès, keeping my sketch-book
well hidden behind the ties, but I ended dressing the windows
with David Mlinaric.
In the autumn of 1965 , returning
after a weekend in France, I had a revelation
a sudden Flash.
I should terminate the temptations and distractions of Sixties
London. Take myself away, and concentrate totally on... art. I
got off that plane a changed person.
Turning my back on Swinging London,
I headed back to Florence, back to Studio Simi.
On my way to Italy in France, I met
Françoise dOrigny. She too had studied in Florence
and showed me her work, and also some work by her Maestro
the artist Hans Joachim Staude. The timing was ideal, as Staude
was due to hold an Exhibition with his Pupils. Would I mind taking
her self-portrait to Florence with me
This was how Madeleine Rampling met
Staude, and had the luck to be accepted as a pupil by that exceptional
man. I left Studio Simi and worked with Staude for two years.
He changed my life. He changed my vision. He taught me how to
see, and he taught me the art of using Pastel. Every time I work
I remember him. http://www.staude.it
That time before the flood of November
6 1966. Florence was the most extra-ordinarily magical place to
have lived. Florence over those two years cradled many artists,
among them Julian Barrow, Tony Bream, Susan Crawford, and Richard
Foster, and the late Nicolo d'Ardia Carracciolo.
Someone suggested that I enter my
oil Margot in a Fur Coat at the Ancona Biennale delle
Regione 1967. On collection, I discovered that I had been awarded
a Gold Medal. This was most encouraging, and before I left I held
a small Solo Exhibition of my work. Then having loaded my Mini
to the roof... I left my heart in Italy and headed back to England.
Two of my works were accepted and
hung at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. These attracted
the attentions of Max Wykes-Joyce critic for Arts Review and the
International Herald Tribune.
I lived in London and near Bath in
the seventies; returning to Italy for landscapes of olive trees,
and nude studies; some which included my Siamese cat Pussum.*
Faces always held a fascination for
. you could say I was irresistibly drawn to them. So it
was natural that I should realize my ambition and become a portrait
painter. As the best advertisement for any portrait painter is
to have work hanging in private houses. I began slowly to gather
commissions and build up a reputation . I was chosen to paint
HRH The Duke of Kent as Colonel of his regiment The Royal Scots
Dragoon Guards. A lovely story, as this portrait was commissioned
by the Band of the Pipes and Drums funded from the sales of their
recording of Amazing Grace. It was 'Top of the Pops'.
No I in the Hit Parade. A position it held for many weeks!
Madeleine Rampling re-married in
1979, then her husband was sent to run a Bank in Nassau Bahamas.
"Pussum and I followed", she writes, "and there
we lived for the next five years". Nassau was not a very
compatible climate for my artistic endeavors. But following her
exhibition themed on ballet done at the American Ballet Theatre,
and in the rehersal rooms at Covent Garden she escaped and went
to work in New York.
1985 I returned to Europe, to France,
as I refused to put a 14 year old cat into English quarantine...
and we lived in Paris for eight years. Pussum died in 1992 aged
19. Following my show in Brussels, I was offered a temporary billet
in Normandy; and due to the generosity of these kind and supportive
friends, I have home and studio. I travel to and fro between France,
Belgium and England, working on commissions.
MBR Fontaine lAbbé.
* See picture by Antonio Ciccone
Maddy and Her Cat on www.antoniociccone.com