Henry Israel – A rare and genuine artist
Henry was a truly great artist and teacher. We shared the same birthday but not the same year. He was strong and forceful but enormously kind – and very patient if he thought you were serious. For over 30 years I regarded him as my mentor: he jostled on my shoulder as I worked (and still does) with my brother John Martin and Paul Cezanne – stern but wise mentors all.
He was classically trained at the Slade but not well known beyond a small circle of collectors and students in North Cornwall because he hated attention and fuss. I remember him once saying that he didn’t paint in public because it’s not a performance. This makes him sound a curmudgeon but he wasn’t; he had a dark and mischievous East London sense of humour, which I think comes across in the photo above.
Our painting techniques, from widely different starting points, seemed to converge at the end. He was always a decidedly abstract painter – stunningly original – but I felt he came to me, but he would say the opposite of course. We had one exhibition together in Camelford in 2005: Henry’s B&W photography and drawings, and my own very un-B&W paintings. We also had a love of animals in common.
I miss his wise counsel tremendously. He leaves his wife, Caeria – also a very fine and completely different painter.
A late landscape: he painted on board and, as you can see here, came to use a painting knife; this gives our work certain similarities. We both evolved the use of under layers of paint as plane boundaries.