Obituary: Ian Hunter, artist and academic

Artist and retired Dean of Central St Martin’s School of Art. Born: 27 April, 1939 in Leeds. Died: 1 March, 2017 in Inverness, aged 77

Artist and retired Dean of Central St Martin’s School of Art. Born: 27 April, 1939 in Leeds. Died: 1 March, 2017 in Inverness, aged 77

Ian Hunter was an industrious young artist who rose to become dean of one of the world’s most renowned art schools.

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Born into a large working-class family in Leeds, he made a series of carefully calibrated moves around the south of England before landing the prestigious post at Central St Martin’s School of Art in 

Then, after retiring as a professor at the historic institution, he settled in Andalucia where he bought a finca before heading north to Huntly in Aberdeenshire. where locals could see the artist still at work in his gallery-cum-studio.

From his roots in the industrial heartland of Yorkshire his family moved to the resort town of Scarborough where the young Ian, second son of Leslie and Muriel Hunter, was educated at St Martin’s Primary and Scarborough High School for Boys.

It was a fellow pupil and lifelong friend, Ian Parkinson, who inspired him to become an artist. Hunter, who also studied at Leicester College of Art and Design, met his first wife Maureen Blowman in Scarborough where, in 1960, they celebrated their marriage with a reception at a local fish and chip restaurant.

His career as a lecturer began at Luton School of Art and continued at Guildford School of Art where he played his part in a student “sit-in” – achieving a bizarre world record for the number of a students and lecturers seated on one another’s laps in a circle.

From there he went onto Farnham College of Art’s Hatch Mill campus – his favourite career move . Hunter, a Europhile who was admired at Farnham for his energy, professionalism and leadership, organised many student exchanges across Europe during his career and also took part in an exchange himself when he was based for a year at Stout University, Menomonie, Wisconsin.

After Farnham he moved to schools of art in Falmouth and then Cheltenham, where he became head of Fine Art. When his policy of moving around the country to secure new and better posts took him to Central St Martin’s, as dean of art in the 1980s, it was a time of upheaval, of reorganisation and staff cuts, but he had a gift for adapting to new circumstances and an optimistic outlook.

Shortly after being appointed to a professorship there he took early retirement but later worked for a spell as head of Fine Art at Winchester College of Art before deciding to move to southern Spain.

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Hunter, who had remarried in 1975 to Susie Lee, had previously enjoyed time in France, where he often took his three children camping– he was a fluent French speaker. He taught himself Spanish when he moved to Spain, where he spent 12 years living in Alhaurin el Grande, an area inland between Marbella and Malaga, and Puerto Buenos.

He bought a finca on the edge of Alhaurin, extending the property with a swimming pool for his grandchildren, cultivating vegetables and tending his avocado, orange, lemon and olive trees.

He also established himself in the local community, joining fellow artists in the Andalucian International Artists group and becoming a member of the Asociacion Espanola de Pintores y Escultures, whose honorary presidents are the King and Queen of Spain.

Hunter, who exhibited widely, including at the Royal Academy of Arts and the Barbican and frequently had his work displayed locally in Spain, always refused commissions. His preferred medium was oils and his paintings often featured human figures, though he also created some sculptures, mainly utilising wood and canvas. Latterly he used religious, newspaper and internet news images as the genesis of his art works. At the age of 73 he taught himself to “paint” using an iPad, after seeing works by David Hockney using the same medium. This resulted in works such as “The Prayer”, which won 3rd prize at an Aberdeen Society of Artists exhibition.

Having been successfully treated for prostate cancer shortly after arriving in Spain, he returned to Scotland after the disease resurfaced and moved to Huntly to live with one of his daughters, Liz. He set up a small gallery and studio, The Arte Room, in the town’s Gordon Street where locals enjoyed seeing him at work and sharing his tales of the art world and his take on current affairs. Witty, with a natural gift for engaging with people, he is remembered as a man with a generosity of spirit who was constantly sustained by his passion for art.

He is survived by his children Liz, Tom and Rachael and two grandsons.