The captivating paintings of Cecil Doyly-John
The works of Cecil Doyly-John are instantly recognisable for their warm, vibrant tones and sun – drenched scene setting. They have a visual language of their own, seemingly transporting the viewer immediately to their scenic locations, evoking not just the sights but the sounds and smells of a place in layers of colour and clever brushstrokes.
Cecil Rochfort Doyly-John was born in South Africa in 1906 and brought up in Durban. Little is known of his early life, or indeed his parentage, but it is known that prior to becoming an artist he was widely travelled and lived quite adventurously. Early employment included pearl fishing in Manila, lifesaving in Colombo and working on a Japanese Tramp steamer.
Doyly-John also served for eight years with the police in Tanganyika, before rising to district commissioner. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he took a commission in the Provost Corps and was injured and hospitalised during the 1945 campaign. He was temporarily blinded and required a long period of convalescence to restore him to health. During this time he was introduced to painting by an artist friend, and he started to develop his own style based on a palette knife technique that he had witnessed by a Belgian artist on holiday. This was the beginning of the emergence of Doyly-John’s incredible talent, and as he and his wife moved to South Africa, he began to devote more and more of his time to painting.
The Doyly-Johns subsequently lived in Cannes for several years before moving to England, living in London and Brighton before settling in Rottingdean on the South Coast. He continued to tour the continent with his work however and painted a variety of Mediterranean landscapes and seascapes. His subjects included, Venice, Nice, Monte Carlo, San Tropez, Cannes, Portofino, Madeira, Brazil, Ireland and Scotland, to name just a few.
In the 1950s and 60s his paintings became very popular, being made into prints, and selling in large numbers. In 1965 a very successful exhibition in Bognor Regis attracted attention from art dealers in Britain and around the world, including Aldridges, Stacy-Marks and Frost and Reed.
Doyly-John would frequently spend several months in a location, sketching scenes outdoors and pursuing the perfect spot to capture the image that inspired him. He would pay for passage on merchant ships to paint exotic locations in the West indies, such as Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago.
His thick impasto paint application and brilliant use of colour make his paintings uniquely distinguishable, and his choice of subjects show his attraction to not just the beauty, but the warmth and humanity of a particular location.
Figures fishing, boating, chatting, engaged in the pleasantries of everyday life lend his paintings an air of relaxation and bonhomie. His seaside scenes, idyllic villages and cosy dwellings, have a gentleness about them, rich in vibrant hues and always drenched in warm sunlight. The images speak of simple languorous pleasures in glorious surroundings, and as such feel wonderfully escapist in nature.
Anthemion have been fortunate to value and sell a number of Doyly-John’s works over the years, and have witnessed his continued popularity in the auction room.