Published  19/03/2004

How we kept meeting

Sir Peter Blake and Sir Colin St John Wilson, as interviewed by Peter Stanford in The Independent on Sunday (14 March 2004) seem more like mentor and student than buddies. But buddies they are, and they represent a revealing slice of the action in far off Dover Street/ICA days of the 1950s and 1960s. An age gap of over ten years between Blake (71) and Wilson ('over 80') does not diminish, nor will it. Recent press coverage of Wilson's superb collection of art from the period, and his very generous donation of this treasure trove to the public reveal much more of the networking and grouping than Wilson has hitherto revealed. His masterly 1964 house (actually two houses) in Grantchester Road, Cambridge, became an entrepôt for many others, including Sir Eduardo Paolozzi and Sir Howard Hodgkin. Such activities are to be more fully described in a new book on the Cambridge houses, to be published in 2004/5: in addition Sandy (as Wilson is affectionately known to generations of students) has been lured into a biography. All this will follow the book by Roger Stonehouse (publisher is Routledge) on Wilson's masterwork, the British Library, now becoming a much-loved part of the new, emergent London. Peter Blake's work will, with Wilson's, be incorporated with that of many other luminaries, in a forthcoming exhibition at Tate Britain, which will be a major event no doubt.

What is interesting about both Blake and Wilson is the extent to which both have sustained a remarkable independence of all groups, developing their work without compromise, or the loss of any intellectual ethos on the long march from the halcyon days of the 1960s. Who but Sandy would along the way secure not only a copy of James Joyce's Ulysses, but one illustrated by Matisse? No doubt the British Library already has a copy, on the shelves. There will be a full interview with Sir Colin St John Wilson, in Studio International, later this summer.

Sandy, of course, is also the best President of the Royal Academy the RA never had.

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