About The Artist

cropped-D-self-portrait-0031.jpgTS LA Fontaine

Tom was born in Smyrna (now Izmir), Turkey on 21st December 1915. His parents (both English) were in the carpet trade there.Tom went to preparatory school in England at Rottingdean near Brighton, with his older brother Geoff. They excelled at sport both there and later at Tonbridge School where Tom was captain of cricket. At Tonbridge Tom painted a large mural in the art school, which remained there for several decades and ironically was removed when Tom’s son – Robin, was a pupil there in about 1972.

Tom began a lengthy correspondence course – the John Hassell course, from Regent School of Art, while he was still at Tonbridge. He felt that an artist should not only be able to paint but be able to draw well. His sister – Madge was often used as a model as he practised drawing. When he left Tonbridge he went to London to Art School.

The war interrupted his training as an artist and both he and Geoff served in the Beds and Herts regiment, and he saw active service in North Africa, Italy (Cassino) and was also at Dunkirk. He was wounded when a machine gun volley hit him first in the left calf, then in the right thigh and the third bullet killed the soldier next to him. While he was in hospital (twice) he continued painting and drawing. Madge would send him paints and canvases. Geoff was killed on May 6th 1943 at the age of 29 – only three months after arriving in North Africa.

After the war he continued his training as a portrait painter and initially did a lot of commercial art from his studio in London. He did many illustrations for the girls magazine – Girl and Eagle, as well as book illustrations. He went often to the London zoo in Regent’s Park to draw animals. Some of his first commissioned work was from patients of his sister, Madge – who worked in London as a physiotherapist. One of her patients was Mrs Procter-Warner who saw a picture Tom had done of a green budgerigar in a cage. She liked it so much she bought it. She also commissioned him to do the painting called “Impromptu” (shown in the book), which was one of many of his pictures displayed in the Royal Academy of Art in London.

Tom married in 1947 to Margaret Storey. Margaret’s passion was horses and she always had a collection of horses and donkeys that were all used as models in Tom’s pictures. The dogs and local cows featured prominently too. In the early years when there were fewer commissions, Tom would do several pictures of the family owned pets – especially in winter – that were later sold. His work was displayed in Ackermans gallery in London from 1962 and many commissions came his way through the gallery.

Tom traveled extensively over the years to paint commissioned pictures throughout Europe, South Africa, Asia and America. Indeed, his trips to America became regular – once or twice a year, and many of his clients became good friends and kept up with him over the years.

In the last 8-10 years of his life as he reduced the number of commissioned works, he started to do more pictures for his own enjoyment. He had done some details from pictures by Rubens and he enjoyed having more time to develop his own style. He really enjoyed the “Wounded Diana” pictures that he was able to do in his last few years. The ‘hounds’ in those pictures were family pets and featured regularly in his pictures. One wonders what more creations he would have done – given more time.

He once said that it was a wonderful thing to have work that was also his hobby and that he would never stop painting – and he never did. Even on holidays he would have his sketchbook and watercolours with him. When he was at home he would be in his studio all morning, then he would work in the vegetable garden, chop wood, or repair fences in the afternoon. If there was no commission he was working on then he would begin his own picture.

 He painted many hundreds of pictures through his lifetime although many of the early ones remain unrecorded. Then there was a period of black and white photography. Latterly though he always photographed the completed picture before it left the studio. Fortunately most of them were catalogued a few years before his death although some are still ‘unknown’.

 During his final illness, as he reviewed photos of his work, he remarked that he was pleased that he had painted so many pictures. He brushed with royalty in painting Princess Anne and Prince Charles – the latter giving him a sitting at Buckingham Palace.His pictures have appeared in auctions mistakenly attributed to such great artists as Munnings and Stubbs.

Tom was a true English gentleman and a talented artist. His work will be admired and appreciated for many generations to come and he is already recognised by many as one of the truly great artists.