SEVERAL OF OUR FRIENDS born in India came to study accountancy in the UK during the late 1960s and early ‘70s. In those days, studying accountancy had two benefits apart from giving our friends the opportunity to have careers in commerce and finance. First, coming to the UK was an opportunity to live abroad, and, more importantly, because they had to study whilst employed by an accountancy firm, they got income to cover their living expenses. All of them have had successful careers in business and/or banking. Some years earlier (in 1950), Lancelot Ribeiro (1933-2010), born in Bombay, came to the UK to study accountancy. However, he did not complete the course. Instead, he began studying art at London’s St Martins School of Art between 1951 and 1953. At that time, he lived in London’s Chalk Farm with his half-brother, the artist Francis Newton Souza (1924-2002), who was born in Goa. In August 1954, Lancelot was conscripted into the RAF. He was released from this in January 1955. Then, he returned to Bombay.
In Bombay, Lancelot was employed by the Life Insurance Corporation. He remained in this company for four years, by which time his poetry and painting were becoming recognised by Bombay’s artistic community, notably by the poet Nissim Ezekiel, the critic and poet Rajagopal Parthasarathy, the critic Rudolf von Leyden (German born, but lived most of his life in Bombay), and the Tata industrial group (who commissioned some of his works). By 1959, he had decided to make painting his profession. By the early 1960s, he was exhibiting in both group shows and solo exhibitions and was gaining wider, and influential recognition. Lancelot and his wife returned to London at the end of 1962/early 1963.
After living in various parts of London, the Ribeiro’s settled in the Belsize Park area of Hampstead – at Belsize Park Gardens – for a few years. By now, Lancelot’s works, and those of other Indian artists living in England, were being exhibited both in the UK and India. Life in London was not easy even in the late 1970s for people with ‘brown’ skins as Lancelot found out the hard way. Several times, he was attacked in the streets near Swiss Cottage, and once badly injured when attacked outside Hampstead Police Station. In addition, some of his pictures were vandalised when on display at the Swiss Cottage Library in 1986-87. However, none of this subdued his irrepressible creativeness.
Some of his prolific and highly inventive artworks were exhibited in Hampstead’s Burgh House when it held an “Indian Month” in 1980. Although he did not enjoy as much fame as his better-known half-brother, Ribeiro’s work is well worth seeing. An opportunity to do so is currently available at Burgh House until the 17th of December 2023. The well-displayed exhibition, “Lancelot Ribeiro: Finding Joy in a Landscape” can be seen free of charge. The Burgh House website describes it as follows:
“A journey through the changing landscapes of Hampstead-based expressionist poet and painter Lancelot Ribeiro, from his roots in pre-Independence 1930s India to life in mid-20th century Britain.
Ribeiro experimented with form and materials, moving from conventional depictions of the Lake District to otherworldly townscapes and sharp, bright abstracts inspired by geology. Each work encourages us to look anew, reconsider the form and substance of our environment, and how we might depict and share those landscapes with others.”
I can strongly recommend that you pay a visit to this show to see the works of an artist, who should be more widely known.
Finally, I wonder what would have become of our few dear friends had they abandoned accountancy prematurely. One of them, in his retirement from many years in banking, has become written a highly acclaimed novel. Another, who retired from a career in an international corporation, is now highly developing his skills as a cook. A third, who dropped out of accountancy, has become a successful translator.