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 left.

Then came the shock of my Mother's death.

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 my subjects.

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 d’Origny. 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 me…. 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 l’Abbé. 2004

* See picture by Antonio Ciccone ‘Maddy and Her Cat’ on www.antoniociccone.com

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