Although my parents did their best to hide their worries from me when I was a child, I now know that the late 1930s were a difficult time for them. My father, Ernest Townsend, was well known in Derby and district as a portrait painter of considerable merit. Much has been written about his artistic achievements, but very little about the realities of making a living as a professional artist. The nature of father’s work brought him into contact with some of the wealthiest and most prominent members of local society, but the financial rewards he received rarely matched that of his subjects. A case in point was a commission for Derby Town Council. In the days before colour photography, my father had painted portraits of several councillors and mayors to hang in the council offices. After the death of King George V, in 1936, Mr F W Hampshire, owner of the factory that made the famous Zubes throat sweets, made a patriotic gesture by commissioning my father to produce a portrait of the new King – Edward VIII – for presentation to the Town Council for display in the Council chamber. Of course, personal sittings with the new King… Read full this story
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