A painter and sculptor Malcom H Carter has been described as “a distinguished looking gentleman with a white moustache, an unmistakable old-fashioned hearing aid with a pair of earphones and a twinkle in his eye” (1). Born deaf, Carter never went to school but studied with a private tutor who taught him “interesting and useless things” and in later life found that his “contemporaries had forgotten all the things he had never learned” anyway.
Unable to join his family’s law firm in the City of London he went into farming, setting up in Layer Breton in 1943. Although his family included several painters and a grandfather who was a successful engraver (2), he was unable to devote himself to art until retirement, and he called himself an ’amateur, sort of on the edge’. A situation he accepted in the same way as he accepted his deafness – with grace and humour. Malcolm Carter was a character, who seemed very much loved by his contemporaries.
He was a Colchester Art Society member from 1967 to 1982 and a committee member in 1968-9. He was a part-time tutor at Colchester Art School.
From Carter’s retrospective exhibition in 1983 emerged a number of paintings depicting local scenes in Layer Marney, Layer Breton, West Mersea and Peldon, but also views of Crete, where he must have spent some considerable time. What is perhaps more surprising is his choice of animal portraits, which include a painting of Pig-Tailed Macaques, a species of monkey native of South East Asia, a panther, some dolphinsand a white boar – probably all from Colchester Zoo, which opened in 1963. Carter also seems to have enjoyed painting trees including willow trees (2) and a few personal portraits, one of them with the puzzling title Inexperienced Persons.
This painting of Marylebone at night was the only urban (London) painting exhibited in the Colchester retrospective, and it well expresses his individual love of pictorial drama, achieved through an effective use of chiaroscuro. The strong contrasts between the darkness and the brightness of the buildings create a sense of mystery but also of volume, accentuated by lines of perspective. On the cover of the exhibition catalogue, which is illustrated by the painting of a restaurant scene, probably in Crete, the artist uses the same method. The strong contrast between the darkness of the restaurant room with carefully aligned tables and the brightness of the street with geometric building in the background very effectively give us, this time, a feeling of coolness as opposed to intense heat.
These are two very accomplished and intriguing works, the perfect embodiment of three dimensional painting.
There is a painting by Malcolm Carter of Abberton Reservoir at Sunset in the Colchester and Ipswich Museums collection, dated c.1970.
The Minories, Colchester, Robert and Harold Warner and Malcolm Carter, 1973, CAS sponsored; Malcolm Carter, a retrospective exhibition (No 1), 1983 (10th September - 9th October)
Colchester Art Society, 1967-1977
(1) Nicholas Butler, Malcolm Carter, introduction to the 1983 retrospective exhibition at the Minories.
(2) This might be James Carter (1798-1855), an English engraver born in Shoreditch, who gained a Society of Arts silver medal for drawing and engravedBenjamin West's First Essay in Artamong other works.