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Portrait of Mrs. Jack Horne at Trincomalee

44.6 x 38.2 cm
Oil on panel
Signed and dated, 1943

John Pelham Napper

John Pelham Napper (1916-2001) was an English artist and expert on Western folk music. His mother was an opera singer and his father an actor and watercolorist, Napper trained at the Dundee School of Art and the Royal Academy School under Sir Gerald Kelly. At the end of each day, he had to clean the brushes Kelly had used, frequently hundred or more of them. That way, Kelly believed Napper would learn more about technique than by merely watching him paint. Napper never forgot this lesson and his technical ability, knowledge, and workmanship was superb. His interest in folk music commenced when he moved to Brittany in France.

During the Second World War, in the period 1943-1945, Napper served with the Royal Artillery in Ceylon, where he spent two years as an official war artist. The sensuality, color, and form of the tropics were to have a profound effect on his later work and composition. After the war, Napper taught at St Martin’s School of Art from 1949-57. His work has been described as being ‘steeped in the geometric order of classicism’. During the 1950’s he became a fashionable artist and was commissioned to paint portraits of Queen Elizabeth and Winston Churchill, earning notoriety with his unconventional approach to the former. Napper died in 2001.