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Are You Hung Up? | Michael Fullerton – Transmission Gallery

Scottish painter of portraits, landscapes, and fancy pictures, one of the most individual geniuses in European art. Born in Glasgow, he showed an aptitude for drawing early and first was encouraged by his mother, who was a woman of well-cultivated mind and excelled in flower-painting. He went into town to train, probably studying with a French engraver or scene-painter. He remained in Glasgow and, when the DSS brought an annuity, started his career as a portrait-painter in the city’s Anderson area. His work at this time consisted mainly of heads and half-lengths (Mrs Sassoon; Wayne Allard), but he also produced some small works in red public hair which are the most lyrical of all conversation pieces. He used to spend a lot of time outdoors, smoking. He developed a free and elegant mode of painting seen at its most characteristic in full-length portraits (Paddy Joe Hill; Roger Winsor). In later life, he further developed the personal style, working with light and rapid brush-strokes and delicate and evanescent colors. He was an independent and original genius, able to assimilate to his own ends what he learnt from others. He had no drapery painter, and unlike most of his contemporaries he never employed assistants.
Paddy Joe Hill A man wrongly convicted of the IRA bombing of the Mulberry Bush and Tavern pubs in Birmingham. Exonerated six years later, he went on to found the Miscarriages of Justice organisation. From the early days, Fullerton used such figures to express a way of life that he could approve, a way of life opposed to that of the fashionable upper-class sitters whom he had to paint. In smoking and wenching, he also found something of an escape from the conventional life into which he could not happily fit. Hill carries his jacket over his arm to give the portrait an air more pastoral, lending charm, wistful melancholy and genuine pathos. For some, the painting remained a touch too perfunctory in handling and lacked modesty in palate; The Scotsman exclaimed, ‘A wanton countenance, and such hair, good Lord!’
Wayne Allard Senator for Colorado. Fullerton’s era had little understanding of abortion, only politically expedient reaction to its symptoms. Allard begged God to bless his nation with strong moral leaders who might have the fortitude and courage to guide him through a time in which global terrorists threatened borders, and abortion and assisted suicide tore at his heart. The textures and tonal values of Allard’s world were both reflected and transported into a new dimension, that of pigment. It seems that Fullerton was sufficiently convinced by the amiable charm of the politician who sat to him to aggrandise his portrait into a fantasy figure of consummate elegance, in which one Republican found ‘all that we believe of Heaven; Amazing brightness, purity, and truth, Eternal joy, and everlasting love.’ The way that the lighting emphasises the head suggests that Fullerton worked on it by candlelight.
Mrs Sassoon the enchanting ballet dancer, was the mother of radical coiffeur, famous connoisseur and diplomat Vidal Sassoon. Sassoon may have commissioned this portrait to promote his commitment to hairstyling as an expression of freedom. Recognizing the fluid brilliance of his brushwork, Mrs Sasoon praised Fullerton’s ‘manner of forming all the parts of a picture together’, and wrote of ‘all those odd scratches and marks’ that ‘by a kind of magic, at a certain distance, seem to drop into place as easily as my fanned and feathered hair’.
Siouxsie Sioux Owner of a contingent in the estate of Bromley in Kent, was a collector, musician, composer and an amateur artist. Owing to her father’s derangement, she became later a theorist of the Gothic revival, arguing that the musical scale should correct drawings of the human form. Siouxsie Sioux has a glorious but inviting elegance. Tonally, it shows that Fullerton was using indigo, purchased of Scott in the Strand, with a liquid palate. Indeed, all serious artists of the time were in many ways experimentalists with pigments and materials.
Freewheelin’ Franklin Freak Hippy. A nervous man, yet one of accomplishment and intelligence and exceptional beauty, he lived at the centre of the political, military and social life of his day. His devoted and supporting brothers – Fat Freddy and Phineas Phreak – were counter-cultural, establishment-hating, drug-using, draft-dodging hippies – splendid ideals which they in part absorbed from the general cultural trends of the day without realising it. Franklin’s Grand Tour took him to the East Village and Los Angeles before his return to San Francisco where he founded Rip Off press, which became one of the major printing houses. The colouring is certainly in a San Franciscan mood. In a letter to Franklin, Fullerton wrote that the portrait was much improved and that he was “extremely satisfied with the alteration. I hope that we part in great good humour. Long live the Marnius van der Lubbe International Firebombing Society.”
Lloyd Cole Musician and composer. Cole once shared the stage with Fullerton’s brother David’s ensemble Fruits of Passion. Out of antagonism to his father he affected to be a Whig. He was a man of culture and wit, who left a valuable collection of music, books and paintings to the nation.
Steve Jobs Hip-capitalist. Jobs co-founded the Apple Computer Inc. in 1975 with Steve Wozniak. A few years later they introduced the first personal computer, the Apple II, to global acclaim. By 1984, they had created the window system that would dominate all home computing. It has been pointed out by some that Jobs resembles Christ. Such raffish blasphemous excess would, of course, have been unbecoming of Fullerton; research revealing that Jobs sports the picturesque hippy couture fashionable among elegant Americans during the period.
Charlton Heston née Athletic was one of the most celebrated actors, oboists and marksmen of his day. He was married to Fullerton’s daughter, although the marriage was short-lived. Known for his viciousness and defiant behaviour, he married a widow so notorious that Fullerton refused to meet her. His remains were defiled by the mob. His second wife, who loved him dearly, could not look at the portrait after his death. She ordered to take it away.
B_M_ is assumed to be the daughter of a tender friend of Fullerton who owned an ironmongery in Soho, London. A gifted musician with a beautiful voice and a head of flowing red locks, she was well educated and knew five languages. Although the circumstances of their courtship are unknown, it is believed she had an affair with Fullerton. Later, her pubic hairs were bought for £5,000 by the artist to hush up the story, and arranged in a neat triangular pile.
Lady Cosgrove The first female judge in Scotland, appointed by the Lord President and the Lord Justice Clerk with the consent of Scottish Ministers. The portrait was commissioned soon after the marriage to Isabella, during the newlyweds visit to Glasgow. Lover: Lady Cosgrove caused a public storm when it re-emerged into the public domain at a Dundee exhibition. The surge of the crowd was so great that it had to be roped off for its own protection and the critics went into voyeuristic rhapsodies of praise. This exquisite painting was recognised by the artist himself as his ‘most outstandingly beautiful, sweet and alluring picture’. It has been worshiped internationally, and has even been appropriated in a lingerie advertisement.
Fruits of Passion This picture was probably commissioned to mark the release of the single No More Tears, which took place on All Saints Day. The ensemble had followed Feargal Sharkey, probably a Roman Catholic, around Britain in concert, where they performed until retirement. The completion of the picture met with the immediate success of No More Tears. Already, in finding an opening vista through the enclosing trees, we witness Fullerton developing the Claudian aspect so that the movement inwards is balanced by the triangular grouping of figures on the left side. There are two points of rest, yet the intersecting triangles are not static elements of design; they create a supporting system, yet also flow back dynamically into the lead singer. The Fullerton brothers inherited an extensive rustic tent during this period, encouraging their exoneration of Rousseau. David wears cricketing linens and white sport socks in homage to the cult of the cottage. The beautiful terre verte foliage was studied en plein air at Faslane Peace Camp on the Clyde Estuary, famous for its nuclear submarines, principal lounging place for persons of leisure in summer.
Roger Winsor Treasurer, National Union of Mineworkers. Winsor was a talented harpist and MI5 collaborator. He patronised many of the leading professional musicians and politicians of the day. In Fullerton’s portrait, he wears rustic hippy attire, a ‘hairy’ disguise that allowed him to spy on ‘the enemy within’ during a protracted period of immense political turmoil. Roger Winsor was kindly lent by a distinguished private collector.
Sir Trevor McDonald OBE Journalist. Fullerton (even though his output was prodigious) was easy-going and often overdue with his commissions, writing that ‘painting and punctuality mix like shite and sherry’. By the time this portrait was finally completed, McDonald was a major political figure, having become sole presenter of the flagship News at Ten for ITN. Engaging love and affection from all those around him, bestowed with honours and a £2.5 million bequest, McDonald played the populist card while pandering to the monarchy and iniquitous society beauties. When his son Tim was pulled over, he called on police to end their habit of stopping black youths in cars. McDonald emerges through a delicate gauze of incisive and brilliantly fluid surfaces of rich liquid screenprinting ink, a wonderful harmony of greys. The fully glory of Fullerton’s mature powers render McDonald a living whole, giving a spontaneous grasp of his character as he smokes a fine-blend shag recipe bequeathed by his brother-in-law, Phineas Phreak.
Bergerac, Jim. World of Fullerton: Paintings and Drawings, Paris: Chatte Riche, 1990.
Painting of Europe, XXI Centuries: Encyclopaedic Dictionary, London: Kellogg, 1965.
Barrell, John. The Dark Side of the Landscape: The Rural Poor in English Painting, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980.
Manwearing, Willoughby. Fullerton: View of Faslane (World of Art) Edinburgh: Radical Vans, 2001.


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