Monday, August 07, 2023

Remembering Tom Coates (1941 - 2023)

Tom Coates PPNEAC PPRBA PPPS PPSEA RP RWA passed away, age 82, on 20 July 2023. He was one of those artists I saw very often at the Private Views at the Annual Exhibitions at the Mall Galleries - as he was a member of so many! He had a presence - you always knew when Tom was in the Gallery! :)

Tom Coates 
(photo courtesy of Felicity House)

I've been waiting for some obituaries to be published before doing this post so that those who know Tom and his work can access them easily.  Below you can find:
  • a timeline of his life
  • notes of his major achievements, awards and prizes
  • links to 
    • interviews with him
    • obituaries about him

Tom Coates Timeline - Notable Events

You will note that it's very clear that Tom Coates worked hard to become an artist and then worked hard to be an artist - working with art societies, art galleries, on commission and with students.
  • born May 5th, 1941 in Aston, Birmingham
  • 1956 - 1959 - studied at the Bournville College of Art
"At my first college, Bourneville College of Art, my principal Capel Smith told me to go into graphics. “No,” I replied, “I want to paint!”
  • 1959 - 1961 - won his first scholarship to study at the Birmingham College of Art 
At my second college, Birmingham College of Art, I painted everything and anything – from industrial scenes to coal mines where I worked on twilight shift. I had no grant as my parents had emigrated to New Zealand, to the luxury of painting in the warmth of the studio.
  • 1961 - 1964 - won a Scholarship to the Royal Academy Schools when Sir Henry Rushbury was Keeper and Peter Greenham was Professor.
I was awarded a scholarship to the RA Schools where my life changed. I relished in the use of oils. My mentor was Sir Henry Rushbury; and I was influenced by Peter Greenham, Charles Mahoney and John Ward. The many prizes I won enabled me to survive.
  • Throughout his career, Coates taught at various art schools and workshops while devoting the majority of his time to full-time painting.
my photo of Tom Coates doing a Portrait painting demonstration
at the NEAC Annual Exhibition 2014
He loved demonstrating - playing to a crowd, telling yarns, unbeknown to his sitters putting horns on their head when it was failing and eliminating them as it progressed. Mary Jackson
Tom's library of old sketchbooks acted as a constant point of reference and he always drew from life. NEAC Obituary
Tom Coates sketching from life
(photo courtesy of Felicity House)
  • He has been greatly involved with a wide number of art societies - and President of FOUR
  • He has exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition since 1980 
  • He exhibited widely in the UK and in Kentucky in the USA and had one man shows at:
  • He worked on commission and accepted commissions from a number of prominent art collectors - including 
  • His work is in many UK and International private art collections - including the Royal Collection.
  • He was married to fellow artist Mary Jackson
  • He died July 20th 2023. His health had declined in recent years but he was still never happier than when drawing and painting - and he never stopped painting.....
Tom died peacefully at home in my arms surrounded by his family. Mary Jackson in RP Obituary

Mary Jackson and Tom Coates in 2022
(Photo courtesy of Felicity House)


my photo of Tom Coates - wearing his Presidential insignia 
with his paintings at the NEAC Exhibition in 2014
    An achievement not bestowed on many artists was that he was the President of FOUR different Art Societies at different times.
    Tom used all materials and worked instinctively with whatever he felt would produce the best results for the image that he was working on. He used all kinds of brushes and tools, and sometimes worked with his fingers to literally ‘draw with paint’.

    my photo of Stables at Keeneland, Kentucky' by Tom Coates Hon PS,
    winner of the Caran d'Ache Award
    • Past Member of 
      • Royal Society of Painters in Watercolours; he was the featured artist in 1987 and was awarded the Watercolour Foundation prize in 1990.
      • the Royal Society of Portrait Painters
    • Honorary Member (in later life) of the RBA, PS, RBSA and SEA
    • Membre D'Honneur of the French Pastel Society.
    • In 2000 he was commissioned to be artist for the MCC in South Africa with the England cricket team.
    "Tom grew in stature, working in a number of art societies. With each medium he tackled, he added strength to his drawing, and this fed into his painting. He turned into the artist who became President of the New English Art Club through so much ‘backroom graft’ in both the structural and aesthetic sides of the Club's working life. He was a wonderful ‘Senior Hanger’ and a fair and supportive judge in both club committees as well as in national competitions. Who could not respond to such a character – one progressively so ebullient? Maurice Sheppard PPRWS


    Awards and Prizes

    • 1984: De Lazlo Medal Winner, Royal Society of British Artists
    • 1984: Gold Medal d’honneur, French Pastel Society
    • 1987: awarded NEAC Critics Prize at Painter-Stainers Prize
    • 1988:  Kaupthing Singer and Friedlander / Sunday Times Watercolour Competition - launched in 1988
      • Awarded First prize in 1988 - thus becoming the first "first prize winner"
      • Awarded Third Prize in 1989
    • 1990: Drawing of Professor Crick OM, HM Queen’s Collection, Windsor Library
    • 1990: Ministry of Defence, Commission to paint the Ceremonial Procession for the Queen Mother’s 90th Birthday
    • 1992: awarded the Horse and Hound Royal Ascot prize and his winning painting was presented to Her Majesty the Queen to mark the 40th Anniversary of her accession.
    • 2000: Prince of Wales Drawing Award, RP
    • 2003: Minto Award, NEAC
    • 2007: The Royal Society of Portrait Painter's Ondaatje Award was awarded to Tom Coates RP, RBA, PS, PNEAC for his portrait of Ulick O’Connor, Irish writer, playwright’. (see The Ondaatje Portraiture Prize 2007 is re-awarded - to Tom Coates)

    "Ulick O'Connor, Irish writer, playwright"
    by Tom Coates RP, PPNEAC, PPRBA, PPPS, RWA
    Oil, 32" x 38"

    Surely there has to be a retrospective exhibition of his artwork at some point?

    A Celebration of the Life of Tom Coates will be held at St. Peter's Church, Hurstbourne Tarrant, Hampshire SP11 0AX on Tuesday the 22nd August at 12 midday. 

    I'm sure there will be a lot of people attending who knew Tom - and who remember him well. Here's a couple (below) from the NEAC Tribute from Members. Do read it - it's a real tribute to the man that so many have written so warmly about both the man and his art.
    "He seemed to be able to make a painting out of anything – constantly inspired by the visual world, yet never a slave to it. In each and every one of his paintings, he showed us just how good oil paint is, and how much he loved it. The same, of course, goes for his pastels. And then there are his watercolours, and his sketchbooks . . . Don’t we all clamber to look through one of those when we get a chance! He loved painting: acquiring it, making it, teaching it and encouraging it. Peter Brown 
    "Tom was my mentor and a wonderful friend. He had the remarkable ability to work in oils, pastels and watercolours with equal fluency and regardless of subject – be it horses or portraits, townscapes or coast – he was master of his painting craft. Watching Tom paint was an inspiration to so many over the years and his workshops were always full. Felicity House




    In due course

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