Leonard Appelbee, artist, born London, November 13, 1914, died Aberdeen,
June 12, 2000
LEONARD APPELBEE was a fine portrait and still life painter, whose work remains in several public collections. When the Arts Council in 1951 put on its 60 Paintings show for the Festival of Britain, Appelbee's big canvas, One-man Band - which shows a solo instrumentalist entertaining a street crowd - was one of the most popular exhibits.
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Appelbee and his artist wife, Frances Macdonald, moved from
the West Country in 1989 to
Kincardine-on-Forth to be closer to their only child, Jane, a marine biologist. As her career developed, they moved to Aberdeen, where Leonard has died after a short illness.
Appelbee liked the wilder parts of Scotland. Recently, he told a friend: ''I'd like to die at Cape Wrath!''
The the son of a journeyman coppersmith, he attended Goldsmiths' College School of Art, and the Royal College of Art. There he met Frances and they came under the spell of the Jewish Eastender Barnett Freedman, a much-loved, outspoken teacher and superb printmaker. Barnett had a weak heart and Leonard used his strength to repay his many kindnesses. Appelbee would call weekly on Barnett and help him move lithographic stones. The Appelbees were proud to have Barnett's easel and a rather erratic ironing board that he constructed for them.
Leonard turned his Chelsea flat into an art gallery, inviting collectors to view his work. First was Sir Edward Marsh, who bought the first painting, Kippers. Appelbee painted a notable portrait of Marsh, who introduced him to potential clients. Although he gave the impression of being a bluff, bearded, hail-fellow-well-met bohemian, he was a sensitive man, subject to depressions which stopped him painting periodically. His nerves were badly affected in the Second World War, when he had been in charge of a mobile anti-aircraft battery. He was later involved in top-secret work for the Special Operations Executive.
Another blow to morale was his abrupt sacking as head of fine art at Bournemouth College of Art, after the implementation of the 1960 Coldstream Report on art education. This prompted the introduction of younger, trendier teachers, sympathetic to American Abstract Expressionism. Appelbee's belief in careful draughtsmanship and painterly technique became old-fashioned. ''The gimmicks started,'' Frances recalled. ''Realists like us were denigrated.'' His last solo show was at the City Museum and Art Gallery, Plymouth, in 1977. It included a lobster painting and salmon lithographs. For some, Appelbee was always The Fish Man. He had had many solo exhibitions, portrait commissions, and had shown with the Arts Council, British Council, Royal, Scottish, and Welsh Academies. In 1970, he won a Silver Medal for Painting at the Paris Salon.
Appelbee broke his leg in four places during a boating accident in 1977 which prevented his standing at the easel. At his daughter's suggestion he took up framing. He also wrote poetry; Hillside Press publishing a collection, That Voice, in 1980. Of his painting, Appelbee said he only wanted that ''one day someone may feel better for seeing what I do''.
Self-portrait: Leonard Appelbee