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OBITUARY: Cavendish Morton

Cavendish Morton. ANL-150402-114527001
Cavendish Morton. ANL-150402-114527001

Cavendish Morton, who has died aged 103, was a British artist, designer, teacher and philanthropist.

The roots of Morton’s belief that art is all around us were laid early and his work reflected a passion for the natural world and the mechanical progresses of the 20th Century.

A man of wit and sharp recall, he cut a dashing figure with his tidy moustache and spotted neckerchief right up until the end of his life. Born in 1911 Morton spent a nomadic childhood with his parents and his twin brother Concord. His father, also named Cavendish Morton, was an actor, art director and photographer while his mother was a successful novelist, who wrote under the pen name of Concordia Merrell.

Originally from the outskirts of London, they spent long periods exploring the south coast before settling in Bembridge, on the Isle of Wight.

On the outbreak of war he and his brother were seconded into Saunders-Roe and the production of aircraft for the duration of the conflict.

After the war Morton returned to a career in art and he soon became prominent as a landscape and seascape artist. In 1948, on moving to Suffolk, he was quick to start a series of paintings depicting the windmills of East Anglia, which were fast disappearing from the landscape.

He and his Dormobile became a regular sight around the countryside. Sphere magazine contracted him to supply technical drawings of various manufacturing industries, from ship-building to aircraft production. An article, Cars of the Future, even led him into a collaboration with John Tojeiro to design the chassis of the 1956 Tojeiro-Jaguar racing car.

He also become a mayor of Eye.

He held a passionate belief that such art should be enjoyed by as wide an audience as possible. Working alongside other East Anglian artists – who soon became friends – like Jeffery Camp, David Carr, Mary Newcomb and Mary Potter, he became a stalwart member of the Norwich Twenty Group and the Norfolk Contemporary Art Society whose shared aim was to make contemporary art accessible.

He enjoyed teaching and worked for many years with Suffolk County Council at Belstead House in Ipswich, where he gave evening classes and summer schools in painting.

He was a popular teacher at Hethersett School and he even had a short career as a presenter on a television arts programme, Anglia TV’s Afternoon Club for children.

One of his most creative periods was triggered when he bought a holiday cottage in Aldeburgh, home to the annual Aldeburgh Festival of Music and Arts.

It had become obvious that the Aldeburgh Festival needed a dedicated concert hall and in 1965 work started on converting the malting buildings at Snape.

As a member of the festival committee, alongside Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, Morton had access to the site and he took an inspirational step when he decided to document the construction work.

In 1977 he returned to Bembridge, on the Isle of Wight, where he still had strong family ties. Over the next 25 years he became known to a new generation of islanders for his paintings of the Solent and the yachts racing along it.

A degenerative eye disease forced Morton to lay down his brushes for the last time in 2003 aged 92.

Cavendish Morton married Rosemary Britten, a talented musician, in 1946. She died in 2000 and he is survived by their three children, Katherine, Sarah and James.

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