Hogarth Sculptor dies after long battle with cancer
Jim Mathieson's lively sculpture of William Hogarth with his pug will serve as a very public monument to his work. Commissioned by the local community, it was unveiled in Chiswick High Road by Ian Hislop and David Hockney in October 2001. Jim devoted huge energy to this project, researching his subject very thoroughly, coping with the late decision of the steering committee to add Hogarth's dog to the statue with some charm and only a little exasperation, and becoming a cheerful and exuberant “exhibit” with his maquette at its fund-raising events. Though he was battling terminal cancer during the three-year life of the project, his determination and enthusiasm ensured its success.
James William Mathieson was born in Calcutta in 1931. He attended, with his brother David, the Lawrence Royal Military School in the Simla Hills. He left India with his family in 1947 at the time of Independence, living in both Arbroath, Scotland and London. Jim did his National Service in the Intelligence Section of the Gordon Highlanders. He worked in the insurance business, managing a small team, but he longed to pursue his passion for art instead. When his father refused him financial help to go to art school and he could not get a grant, Jim decided instead to become a psychotherapist, achieving good grades in his O and A levels.
Around this time he became involved with CND, helping set up the Bermondsey and Southwark branch and becoming its chairman. He joined the Committee of 100 which led to his first arrest and imprisonment for three days before he was brought to trial. He joined the Communist Party and was an active speaker for the cause. As his political activity grew, his psychotherapy studies ceased. He looked back on those days of struggle with pride and his strong political convictions stayed with him throughout his life.
Jim Mathieson married Edna Skinner in 1959. After the death of their baby daughter, Julia, in 1964, he decided to go to art school and at 34 gained a place on a four-year course at City & Guilds Art School in Kennington. During this time Edna supported him and they had another daughter, Catherine, in 1966. Jim's love was sculpture and while a student he gained a commission to cast the crown for the Prince of Wales' Investiture at Caernarvon Castle. After he had completed the course, Jim and Edna split up and were later divorced. In 1981 Jim married Judy Craig, also a sculptor, who later became the Head of the Portrait Studio at Madame Tussaud's.
To supplement his income, Jim taught at the Sir John Cass and Ealing Schools of Art, where his enthusiasm, dedication and enormous energy inspired his students. He was a very good teacher who insisted on instilling the fundamentals. His generosity in sharing his wide knowledge, from sculptural techniques and structure through to the intricacies of casting in all media, was much appreciated by his students.
Jim wrote in January 2003 that his work was “an obsession done with a sense of love in creating something tangible. The satisfaction comes from making, as I do not actively try to sell it. Money is only of interest to me to pay for materials.” While he occasionally accepted portrait and figurative commissions and did some free-lance work for Madame Tussaud's (including portraits of Nelson Mandela, Oprah Winfrey, Prince Andrew and Darcey Bussell), Jim's focus and love was his abstract work.
“I am basically a naturalist,” he said, “ who reduces human, animal and plant forms to arrive at an essence of an idea that transcends realism.” In these abstracts, he was attempting to capture the “essential qualities that express this miracle of life.” Through the exploration of the sexuality of plant and animal forms, Jim was attempting to create a simplicity of structure that was nonetheless continuously evolving and changing, capturing an organic evolutionary process. He was constantly excited by the endless possibilities of the variations in his work.
Jim is survived by his wife Judy, his daughter Catherine, his stepson Scott and three grandchildren, Melissa, James and Anna.
April 20, 2003