Hamba kahle, Harry. 


1st May 1939 – 9th October 2022

by Leigh Voigt

How does one give an unbiased, honest appraisal of one’s own husband and have the gall to call it an obituary? Does one resort to clichés? Borrow words from the pens of others? No, one hones in on an aspect seldom seen by the general public – that of an artist, a private man, who worked in solitude and quiet contemplation.  

    Only someone who took in his tea, (me) and perhaps paused for moments of brief conversation, will notice the subtle changes in the making of a painting from beginning to end.

    The painting in this case is a portrait of Tony Hall. Neighbour, friend, journalist, activist, socialist, conservationist, in a word, a mensch.

Tony Hall, oil on canvas, Harold Voigt

    The inspiration behind wanting to do a portrait of Tony Hall was a charcoal sketch by John Singer Sargent of General Christiaan de Wet, who bore a remarkable likeness to Tony. Another was the 1832 portrait by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres of Monsieur Louis-François Bertin. Both served as ‘back of the mind’ motivations for the portrait done in 2000. Tony was a charismatic figure with a colourful background and equally striking features.


Harry Voigt Exhibition, 2004

   Harold Voigt first had to persuade Tony that a portrait would be a fitting acknowledgement of their friendship. Tony acquiesced, no payment required, just a few hours of his time, during which all Tony had to do was to sit still. A few photographs were taken and good-natured banter ensued until Harry had enough visual information stored in his receptive mind. Months went past during which the portrait slowly took shape. It was Harry mastering his craft, from a spontaneous, loose drawing straight onto a large prepared canvas, to the final measuring by the grid system of a photograph.

The painting took at least 6 months to complete. He would work on other smaller canvasses at the same time, but always be drawn to work on the portrait. He became obsessed with the painting, every now and again calling someone in for confirmation that he was going in the right direction, getting it right. We always tactfully assured him that it was. Although he was supremely confident that his work was good, he often sought a sounding board, someone’s comment, either positive or critical. He seldom took any notice, just wanted interaction with another voice, a viewer with an opinion. Any passer-by or lunch guest would be called in to comment, for Harry to watch their response, if any.

The Studio Chair, Harold Voigt

  Nearly all Harold Voigt’s paintings were produced in this way, carefully considered, altered, reconsidered, scrapped, reworked, until suddenly one day I would go into his studio to find it signed.

   Harold defined and refined the techniques of the Old Masters. His dog-eared Degas monograph, his second-hand John Singer Sargent open on the table next to his once-white chair, all bore testament to his desperate need to improve, to perfect, to supersede the best of the best, if not for the world, then just for himself.  

Last minute touch up

  In Harry’s studio, in a home we have lived in for nearly fifty years, his studio was a sanctum; cluttered, redolent with artist’s studio smells; oil paint, turps, oils, books, marble dust and rabbit glue. An alchemist’s laboratory, a craftsman’s workroom.  His tools – his brushes, pens, pencils, crayon, chalks, nibs, scrapers, markers, all laid neatly in rows.

‘An alchemist’s laboratory, a craftsman’s workroom’

Studio Green Chair, Harold Voigt (detail)

   The windows with some of his aphorisms written in yellow crayon can never be Windolened, his walls never repainted, his stuff never recycled. Here a plaster cast of Mrs Piles, there a child’s zither, a set of Arthur Mee’s encyclopaedia, at least fifteen dusty old telephones, none of which work. His collection of little radios, Sony, Sanyo, Phillips and Grundig, occasionally appeared in his paintings, as did lamps, kettles, spectacles and chairs, plenty of chairs. A simple chair could become an object of sheer beauty, or nostalgia or even loneliness. Günter Schlosser once said Harold Voigt could make something out of nothing. A rusty wheelbarrow tells a story. A spade. A bell.

The Trowel, Harold Voigt

 Sketches, scribbles and colour swatches scattered all over the place, taped to the walls, propped against easels, on the floor. Not quite like Francis Bacon’s studio, but pretty close.

    Harry was an extraordinary man. Head and shoulders above the rest. With very deep footprints, long strides and with his quiet reliability in a marriage lasting 56 years, he is present in every brick, every nail, every brushstroke and in every curry I make.

The Guest Room Lamp, Harold Voigt

Winter Sunlight, Harold Voigt

Wilderness Blue and Ochre, Harold Voigt

Wheelbarrow, mixed media on canvas, Harold Voigt

Abandoned Building in Desolate Landscape, Harold Voigt

Buffalo Skull and Sheep’s Bell (detail), Harold Voigt

Mrs Piles, 2020, Harold Voigt

After a long and difficult struggle with many health problems, especially Parkinson’s, Harry died in his sleep at 12.15 am, on the 9th October, 2022, in his own bed at home, watched over by his two sons, Max and Walter, and his wife, Leigh.

    We shall miss his eccentric, intelligent and creative mind; his extensive knowledge, his guidance and most of all, his presence.

    His beautiful paintings, his self-built house and his remarkable self-discipline will serve as a benchmark for his family and future generations, and his paintings will be his legacy.   

Hamba kahle, Harry. 

Obituary: Bryan Greetham, teacher, writer and thinker

By Pat Rowe

Bryan Greetham (1946-2022) the writer and thinker, died on Sunday 26th June in Estepona, Spain. Above all, Bryan wanted to help students of all ages be the best thinkers possible.

Bryan was born in Faversham, Kent. He failed the 11 plus exam and went to a secondary modern school. But this didn’t hold him back. He pushed to take his A’ Levels and got a place to read History at the University of Kent. Then he took an MA in Intellectual History at the University of Sussex. He was awarded a PhD, in moral philosophy by the University of Newcastle of New South Wales, Australia when he was in his 50s. He was an honorary fellow at the University of Durham.

Bryan loved teaching and was always happy to help any of his students. It was for them he started writing and had just finished the fifth edition of his first book, How to Write Better Essays, when he died. Some of Bryan’s more recent books focused on techniques to develop the art of thinking itself: Smart Thinking and Thinking Skills for Professionals.

Helen Caunce, Bryan’s editor at Palgrave:

“he demonstrated intellectual curiosity, consideration, astute judgement and – above all else – genuine warmth and kindness. There really is no-one I’ve enjoyed working with more in my publishing career. Bryan’s books will continue to represent the very best of study skills publishing: his work stems from a keenly felt desire to make the experience of studying at university more accessible – to make the ‘rules of the game’ clear – particularly for those coming from a less privileged background. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to commission so many of these inspirational books.”

Bryan had almost finished a novel about the moral dilemmas facing people in the Second World War but it will remain uncompleted.

I hope he will be remembered for his books and for the passion with which he taught his students and tried to help all those who bought them and later contacted him. As well as philosophy, which he loved, he also taught history and politics. Bryan was always curious about our world, constantly reading, writing and questioning our origins, our existence and our future..

Bryan Greetham was a generous contributor to Ars Notoria. Phil Hall, its founding editor, said:

Reading Bryan Greetham’s book resulted in an intellectual epiphany. Despite the fact that I thought hard and studied for so long, after I came across Bryan Greetham’s books, I realized that my thought processes were neither clear nor profound. Bryan’s book dispersed my mental fog, and it was important to incorporate his ideas into my classes at all the different universities and colleges I worked at in the UK and abroad. Bryan opened his students’ (and his friends’) intellectual horizons. His ideas were transformative. He was a great humane thinker and socialist and if everyone was able to think the way he suggested we think we would be living in a much better world, not in this strange infra-mundo.

Bryan wasn’t just an academic, though. He loved cycling and music. Cream, Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin were some of his favourites. He supported his beloved Newcastle United FC, and he had many other interests that filled his life. Early on in his life, Bryan played piano and sang in a church choir. He played tennis, cricket, rugby and football, and he loved swimming.

After the UK, we lived in Portugal. Together, Bryan and I started an international college. After Portugal we moved to Australia. Then we lived in France and finally in Spain. But Bryan always loved Kent and that is where I will take his ashes.

Although he was not traditionally religious in adult life, Bryan had strong spiritual beliefs of his own, so maybe he has taken a Stairway to Heaven, to his own idea of heaven. I hope so.

Bryan wanted to feel he had done something good and useful. I know from all the messages he received over the years that he achieved this.

A toast to Bryan.

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