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Gordon Frickers, Biography of a marine artist

Thanks to the world leading marine picture library, Pickthal’s Picture Library I have to write my own biography…

According to the Oxford dictionary a biography is “An account of some one’s life written by some one else“, hmmm.

Plan, there are lots of comments on my web site made by others so that can form the solid backbone of this biography of a marine artist.

Do you think this will be OK?

Pickthal’s Picture Library want a cover picture from me of a sailing ship and steam ship (which 3 days ago I did not have) and of course the biography mentioned yesterday,  for possible inclusion in the very prestigious American “Marine Quarterly”  the biography, the painting will follow tomorrow.


Gordon Frickers Biography.


Who is Gordon Frickers?
Gordon will strike most people as very sociable and certainly articulate. He does not only entertain but also informs you in an engaging way about topics he knows well. Those are as diverse as sailing and wine as well as painting. He will wrap them up in such a manner that you will be utterly mesmerized and keen to deepen the discussion which by then will no doubt be of a philosophical nature without your ever being awed by his keen intellect” ~ V. Lees, author.
•    Pictures in national collections in England and France,
•    Currently invited to exhibit at the European Parliament, the first Marine Artist so honoured.
•    Member of the British Marine Federation
•    A number of famous paintings to his credit including “Roaring Forties” (which the Times of London referred to as “dry humour”), “I have urgent dispatches” and “Trafalgar Dawn
•    The only artist ever to have carried a letter of introduction from a captain of HMS Victory!
•    “A formidable list of distinguished clients and companies” ~ Audrey Hinks, Gallerie Marin.

What else would you like to know?
Gordon Frickers recently appeared on the BBC Channel 4 documentary, national TV prime time, in Tom Cunliffe’s series “The boats that built Britain”, interviewed in the Great Cabin of HMS Victory.
A regular guest on BBC radio Devon interviewed about art and the adventures of an artist he also occasionally gives illustrated interactive lectures.
He is qualified photographer (to degree level), a master shipwright and boatbuilder, successful racing helmsman and is a qualified RYA sailing and racing instructor.
He has sailed on boats as varied as 10 foot dinghies, the Queen Elizebeth 2 and the world’s oldest square rigger.

By way of introduction for those who don’t know of Gordon Frickers:
•    Recent clients include BVT Surface Fleet Ltd (formally BAE Systems Surface Fleet Solutions);
•    Member British Marine Federation;
•    Pictures in National collections in GB and France;
•    The choice of many renowned organisations and distinguished individuals;
•    Clients within the past 12 months include the Ministry of Defence for the Armada de Chile (HMS Marlborough converted to Almirante Condell), Devonport Royal Dockyard, Pendennis Shipyard, the government of Oman for official buildings and the Sultan’s yacht.
•    Included in Superyacht Business, the Best of British 2010/11


Where did this all start?
Born Beckenham, Kent in 1949
Gordon Frickers often original drawing and painting was first “noticed” at the tender age of 6, his mother loved to relate stories about that!
Gordon Frickers did not set out to become a famous marine artist, or any other sort of artist, initially he was aiming to become an Art photographer and still some times works as such.
Over a long period of time a series of events inevitably moved him in a painterly direction partly because he realised a painting offers a unique way to communicate.
Britain’s most famous yachtsman, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said to Frickers “it’s not a job it’s a calling”.
Coming from a family of landlubbers, his earliest influences included childhood visits to ships like the renowned tea clipper Cutty Sark, to Southampton and London docks and a book by C S Forester given by his father ~ Horatio Hornblower.


Aged 16 he became the youngest student at an art college in Kent. He says “its part of a University now so I’ve been prompted!”

Aged 17 one evening he found himself a guest at a Royal Navy (silver service) dinner given in the Great Cabin on HMS Victory.

Little did our lad then realise that he would return years later uniquely commissioned to paint to help raise funds and awareness of the historic ship and eventually appear on national TV as an expert on Trafalgar!
If you have never been in the Great Cabin Frickers recommends add it to your list.

He thinks there are few more atmospheric setting on the planet.

Besides being a very elegant setting, when filmed at 07.30 one December morning in 2009 he felt very strongly the room crowded with spirits come to watch and for once we are not talking about Pusser’s navy rum; but then the whole ship, HMS Victory is filled with a benevolent sense of the people who worked Victory and ships like her; or maybe it is the rum?

What ever, back to the early 1970’s, Frickers emerged from Uni 5 years later to work as a photographer’s assistant in various central London fashion and advertising studios for 2 years before joining the news group Beaverbrook as a press photographer in Cornwall.

Frickers says all his photography days were a great experience; he got to meet loads of interesting people doing fascinating things, some of whom are still friends.

His passion for photography remains undimmed today.
However by then he was showing a talent in racing dinghies and yachts so was eventually “head hunted” into the marine industry a period he describes as “to much fun” and lead to him founding South East Boat Builders Ltd at Rye which employed 9 people by the time he sold out.
During this period Frickers continued to draw and paint, mostly cartoons for club newsletters however pictures started to sell if for very modest prices.
Gradually the intention to become a professional artist was forming and was one of the reasons he sold South East Boat Builders Ltd.
After moving back to Cornwall, the mysterious and beautiful  granite kingdom and chosen habitat of many renowned artists for it’s excellent light and mild climate Frickers first “project” was to visit most of the West Country sites painted by one of his hero’s, the then rather unfashionable JMW Turner.
Having been told at Art College, “don’t look at Turner, terrible artist”; naturally Frickers did look and has always been glad he did.

Gordon’s view is Turner is still much miss understood particularly by academics and still ahead of our times in many ways.
He expresses gratitude to JMW Turner, “he got me my A level Art History. Turner came up as a main question, thank you Mr. Turner!

The project quickly sold out.
In parallel though, his marine paintings were being collected.
This was not entirely surprising as Frickers had by now spent so much time at sea, had a though understanding of how a boat/ship “goes” in its environment, how they are constructed and was rapidly becoming well versed in sea lore.
It was during this period he sailed on what was then the world’s oldest and last square rigged merchant ship, a fine vessel later tragically wrecked off Padstow, Cornwall.

Gordon wrote her an obituary published in Sea Breezes.
Pictures like the haunting “October Evening” and beautiful “Vagrant off the Needles” went into print thus beginning the spreading of his embryonic reputation.

At the time of writing the former is available and of the latter, only 2 copies remain unsold.
Lloyds list International, the world’s longest running newspaper was quick to spot his talent and as part of a feature at this time wrote of Frickers, “”Gordon has more than a casual affinity with Britain’s Seafarer’s”.
Frickers has shown a persistent enjoyment of marine people and boat events.
Over the years he has worked on location recording classic moments such as various Cowes Weeks, some of the Brest traditional boat festivals and recently along the cote d’azur with superyachts.
A unique commission to help raise public awareness of and funds for HMS Victory involved travel to research in many parts of England, France and Spain.

Carrying a letter of introduction from the Victory’s Captain, he was able to access the rarest documents which in turn enabled some original research, correct some myths and make a direct contribution to Victory and our knowledge of the navies of Victory’s most active years.
Frickers went on to create a series of paintings which have appeared in many journals and books, in particular “I have urgent dispatches” and “Trafalgar Dawn” where you are onboard HMS Victory at 0605, Monday the 21st of October 1805.

As you may have guessed, by the end of this he had become a considerable authority on the Georgian Navy.

He has worked with many record breaking teams such as Corum, sponsors of the French Admiral’s Cup Team and on a couple of round the world races.
One of the more unusual assignments was for Yachting World were he provided the Swan European Regatta YM prize, a painting of the winning boat, to be presented that evening.

This was no mean feat as the racing was on handicap and the winner only announced 2 hrs before prize giving.

Two other artists tried this trick and both according the editor said they would never do it again, to stressful.

Frickers performed the feat 5 times and attracted considerable press coverage including nationally.

In similar vein he has produced some remarkable paintings for shipping companies for who he loves to work.

These days Frickers divides his painting time between studios in Plymouth, England and one in S W France, the latter for the light and quality of life.
A visit to his extensive web site and blog can be fascinating.

Besides showing his work and recording some of his adventures, many of the paintings have “further reading” sections developed from his notes, they read like a series of short novels!

This resource attracts further stories and has helped many to find and contribute information.
At the time of writing Frickers is preparing for 2 invitations to exhibit in 2011.

One from the City of Plymouth, the other from the European Parliament; the latter, in May 2011, is particularly to his credit as it is rare for British artists to show at the European Parliament and he is the first marine artist to be invited.
Frickers new exhibition, “Transport and Sea Stories” will include (unless some one makes him an offer he can’t refuse for some of the paintings!) subjects as diverse as yachting, cruise and working ships and historical moments like “Nelson boarding Minerve”, a new “Trafalgar Dawn – the French perspective”.

These are marine paintings behind which the impressive pictures invite the viewer to think on the implications, subjects such as emigration, courage, energy, communications, self reliance and leadership; subjects which JMW Turner would probably have approved?

Never sponsored, marketed or promoted any success Gordon Frickers has found is entirely on merit.

He would particularly like to thank (and names many on his web site) the very numerous people of good will who have helped in so many ways to make his art work and stories possible for us to all appreciate and enjoy.


A few quotes:

The Condell painting went down a real treat. The Chileans were very impressed and Capt Cruz the commanding officer was over the moon and said he was going to have it welded to the wardroom bulkhead so none of the Admirals, and there were six Chilean Admirals present, could get their fingers on it.”
Capt J.A.B. Simkins MN, director, the Chief Executive, Disposal Services Agency of the Ministry of Defense.

“Our efforts with the painting were highly successful
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston.
The composition and the quality of your painting is quite simply stunning and has deeply impressed everyone who has seen it. The detail, lighting and colours deserve particular attention. The inclusion of another CMS vessel in the background is a delightful touch as is the choice of venue.”
T.C. Hart, Managing Director of Coe Metcalf Shipping Ltd


Gordon Frickers was educated at:
•    Maidstone College of Fine Art (now part of Kent Institute of Art & Design): Fine art, graphics and photography;
•    Medway College: Visual Communication, Photography for advertising & media;
•    Falmouth Technical College: Ship & Boat Building;
•    Montmiral School of Painting (South West France): Advanced drawing and colour;
•    Plymouth College of Further Education: Internet, E business, web site construction, PC office skills;
•    RYA coach and instructor (dinghies and powercraft);
•    UKTI / Businesslink: Management, export, e commerce and web site skills
•    After Uni: Assistant photographer, various central London advertising studios;
•    Falmouth: A GP photographer and latter press for the Packet Group;
•    30 years as a marine painter;
•    Sailor and man of the sea: Dinghies, Yachts, mostly racing, Square Riggers (including what was then the world’s oldest), Merchant & Cruise Ships;
•    Gradually became a master shipwright and marine and art historian;
•    After time with Bromley Boats, six years managing Director of South East Boat Builders Ltd, Rye;
•    4 years with the R.A.C;
•    26 years freelance painter particularly noted for the vitality of his marine subjects.

Teaching: Unlike many fellow painters Gordon has not followed a career in teaching art. He does occasionally give talks, lectures and has successfully taught marine painting. His style is interactive, engaging involving his audience.

His Awards include:
•    Four times chosen Yachting World/Rolex-Swan prize artist
•    1st prize (oils) 1995 Cornish Society of Artists
•    Roll of Honour 1996, City of Plymouth; for “Outstanding Contribution to the City of Plymouth”
Gordon Frickers has exhibited at:
•    Buckingham Palace
•    London International Boat Shows
•    Royal Society of Marine Artists
•    The World Ship Society
•    Chester Town Hall, including a Civic Reception with 400 guests
•    Maison de la Fontaine, City of Brest including a Civic Reception
•    Royal Yacht Squadron and various Yacht Clubs, Galleries and Exhibitions.


Public Collections: Examples of Gordon Frickers marine painting are in:
•    The University of Plymouth
•    Le Musée du Cap Horn at St Malo
•    La Maire de Sauternes, Bordeaux
•    Hôtel de Ville, L’Isle sur Tarn, Tarn
•    Government of Oman (various public buildings & the Sultan’s private yacht)
•    Armada de Chile (National Navy of Chile)


This is a random selection of his list of distinguished clients and patron’s, described by Audrey Hinks of Gallerie Marin of Appledore, as “formidable”; including:
•    Royal Naval Fleet Air Arm (Culdrose, HMS Seahawk mess for the Princess Royal)
•    Sir Robin Knox-Johnston
•    Pendennis Shipyard
•    The New York Yacht Club
•    The Times Clipper Ventures
•    Registered supplied to BVT Surface Fleet Ltd (formally BAE Systems Surface Fleet Solutions)
•    British Ministry of Defence
•    Government of Oman for the Sultan
•    Devonport Royal Dockyard Ltd
•    Babcock Marine
•    British Telecom (Marine) Ltd.
•    Maiden G.B. (Tracy Edwards)
•    Yamaha
•    Blue Arrow America’s Cup
•    The National Trust
•    Imperial Tobacco (Award won)
•    Devonport Management Ltd.
•    Marine Projects (now known as Princess Yachts)
•    Coe Metcalf Shipping Ltd.
•    Corum – French Admirals Cup Sponsor
•    Sir Richard Branson
•    Henri Lloyd Ltd.
•    Cunard Line
•    Sail Training Association
•    La Maire de Sauternes
•    La marie de L’Ille sur Tarn
•    CPC (United Kingdom) Limited (name changed in 1998 to Best Foods Inc)
•    Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd
•    H.M.S. Victory
•    The Chilean Navy
•    Peter de Savery
•    Deloitte & Touché
•    City of Chester (Civic reception for “The Port of Chester 1863”)
•    Royale Publications Ltd
•    Gordon Fraser Gallery
•    Michael McNamara Sails

•    Yachting World

Gordon Frickers is listed in Debrett’s Distinguished People of Today & Who’s Who Art and Antiques.
Gordon Frickers artwork is an excellent investment?
Contact Gordon Frickers via this web site.

19.09.10 ©