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Victor Willing

Victor Willing  (1928-1988), Feathers, 1979, Oil on canvas, Rugby Art Gallery and Museum, Purchased with assistance from the Government Grant in Aid Scheme (1980) © Paula Rego

Victor Willing

Victor Willing attended the Slade School of Fine Art in 1949 following military service during World War II. Willing's enrolment at the Slade coincided with William Coldstream's (1908- 1987) appointment as Director and Professor. Among his peers were Michael Andrews, Euan Uglow, Craigie Aitchison and Paula Rego whom he married in 1959 following the breakdown of his first marriage. Francis Bacon was among his friends.

In 1966 Willing was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Suffering from chronic insomnia, Victor Willing began to have hallucinations. The delirium would produce visions that came to him in the form of paintings which he would sketch and commit to memory before reproducing on canvas. Feathers forms part of a series of works, made between 1979-1980, which depict scenarios that take place in large, distorted rooms with small doors and oversized objects. The human presence is often suggested but never present imbuing each image with a sense of absence. The distortion of space and size in this melancholy yet luminous still life composition illustrates Willing’s debilitating health and subsequent struggle to fully function independently.

Willing’s paintings are held in important collections including Tate and the Arts Council Collection to name a few.



Film credit: Victor Willing by Nick Willing, 2019 ©Nick Willing

‘Victor Willing’ is a recent documentary film made by British director Nick Willing, the son of Victor Willing and Paula Rego. Nick graduated from The National Film and Television School in 1982 and began his career directing music videos for bands such as Eurythmics and Bob Geldof before moving on write and direct to feature length films and documentaries. This film was first shown at Hastings Contemporary during their recent Victor Willing retrospective. Nick Willing has kindly given RAGM access to this film because he say’s Feathers is one of his favourite works from his father’s prolific career and it appears in an archival photograph within the film showing the artwork on displayed with Victor Willing in the foreground. The photograph was taken at Willing’s last exhibition during his lifetime, held at Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1986, just two years before the artists untimely death.