Michael Lawrence Cadman was born on 9 November 1920 at Epsom Hospital. His father, Alfred Leslie Cadman, was then a civil servant, a Clerk of the Board of Education, having just come out of the army. His mother, the former Effie Hitchcock, was one of a large family whose parents kept a Barnardo's home in Kingham, Oxfordshire. Michael's middle name reflects the rock star status of Lawrence of Arabia at the end of the First World War. Just a year later, the Cadmans completed their family with a sister for Michael, Betty Lesley. Family holidays and, during the second world war, his family's evacuation to Staithes resulted in some stunning paintings of Staithes later in his life and a number of paintings of boats, harbours and seascapes.
Cadman had a marvellous childhood. The family lived in Somers Road, Reigate, and were fairly well off, owning and letting rooms in a number of the big houses in that street. Michael spent as much time outside as he could, exploring the country side, collecting butterflies and staying outdoors all day. He spent a lot of time with his aunt Isobel's husband, John Strudwick, known as 'Strud', who taught him country lore and together they inspired in him a lifelong love of the countryside.
Cadman knew he wanted to paint very early. A small oil painting survives of his cousin Jennifer Strudwick when she was about 12 and he was 16. He was still painting late last year, just before his 89th birthday, so he painted for 73 years. Later, in their teens, the two of them would raid Strud's gin bottle together and water it down afterwards. Jennifer Strudwick described him as having very many girls pursuing in him; he was already a glamorous figure and the family grew resigned to his various admirers, some of whom he painted.
As a young man, Michael decided to counteract the privileged upbringing he felt he had, and meet the ordinary people of Great Britain. He set off with his friend Charles Bone on his bicycle with just a few pounds, on what he described afterwards as his 'Roughing Trip', sleeping rough and sketching all the time. Charles Bone left him after part of the journey; Cadman continued for a year. It was on this trip that he fell in love with Cornwall and Dorset, not just the coast but the vernacular architecture of village buildings and roofs. In the notebook he kept, he described vividly how Cornwall is put together:
“The interior of Cornwall, lying well above sea level, forms the spine of a whale back, with the coastal towns and villages sloping down towards the sea. Padstow, about the size of Newlyn, has the usual boats, shipping wharves and warehouses, yet in spite of this it possesses no unusual character and indeed is not so pleasant as the southern towns and villages along the coast. The road across the moorland to St Merryn looked strange and eerie in the misty light, and except for isolated farms and bungalows, showed no signs of human habitation. ...There were so many country lanes that I found myself going round in everlasting circles, sometimes to end up where I had started.”
A few years later, he travelled around Spain and collected visual impressions of its hillside villages which are reflected in many of his oil paintings. Another series deals with jockeys; one of them was commissioned by Epsom racecourse.
Cadman studied at Wimbledon School of Art for his sixth form studies, taking examinations there in drawing and painting, before studying for the ARCA Diploma in Painting at the Royal College of Art where in 1943 he won an award for architecture and another for landscape painting. In 1947, he took up a post as Lecturer in Fine Art at Epsom School of Art , and in that year he also had his first painting in the Royal Academy summer show, continuing to exhibit there until 1967.
Over time, he rose to Head of Department at Epsom and still keeps in touch with many of his students. Among his papers, were some black and white drawings by his students, carefully preserved for half a century. Cadman lectured in drawing at Croydon College for some of those years. When the Second World War came along, the Royal College of Art was evacuated to the Lake District, where, with his friend Charles Bone, Cadman rented a cottage belonging to a golf course, high up in the peaks. They went for 25 mile walks, sometimes in dense fog, and played golf, sometimes by moonlight. Later, Cadman was conscripted and served in Malta.
In 1958, he met and married Anne Burden, a student of his at Epsom. They were both in their early thirties by now and were never fortunate enough to have children of their own. They remained extremely close for 32 years until Anne's untimely death in 1990. Anne was gentle, supportive and sympathetic, but not an enthusiastic cook so Michael did most of the cooking. 11 years after their marriage, Anne and Michael decided that he should paint full time. They sold their house in East Horsley, Surrey and moved to Little Tolmennor in Cornwall, where Michael lived and painted for many years, sending paintings infrequently to galleries (but regularly to the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours) , always refusing to go himself to the exhibitions, particularly in London. By now, he had settled on watercolour rather than oil as the best medium for his work, which had developed into a post-impressionist style using broad brush strokes in blues, purples, and earth shades, many mixing architecture and nature to produce a dreamy atmosphere. He lived the outdoor country life which he loved, painted, collected and sold minerals and butterflies to supplement his painting sales. He was very happy.
In the '80s, Anne and Michael moved to Dorset, where quite by chance they bought a house where his mother had once lived. It was not a comfortable house and they moved back to Cornwall, then again to Dorset, settling in Hermitage, just outside Sherborne, where Anne could take long walks with their dogs, and Michael could paint and garden. That idyllic lifestyle ended with Anne's sudden death from long-standing heart problems in December 1990.
Cadman was bereft. He had experienced 32 years of a very happy marriage and considered himself to have been lucky. However, not long afterwards, he got to know Sheila Waddington, who had bought a couple of paintings from him before Anne died, and was herself a talented amateur painter. They were well matched and under her encouragement, Michael began to travel again and also attended the private views of exhibitions of his paintings. He finally began to accept and enjoy the experience of his paintings being on display. He and Sheila travelled regularly by caravette to camp in France, and Michael painted bridges, architecture and natural scenes from as far up as Mayenne down to the Lot. Sheila encouraged Michael to put on an exhibition at her home, and gave him the use of a studio there. It was a warm and busy home, full of the comings and goings of Sheila's children, her lodger, and her extended family (including her Portuguese stepchildren).
In 1994, Cadman gave up his bungalow in Hermitage and thereafter he and Sheila lived between her house in Sherborne, and a house they bought Studland (where visitors were rare and they enjoyed their privacy). Cadman loved to take long walks along the coast paths, striding ahead as he had when much younger.
In 1993, Cadman was elected to the Council of the RIPW, a post he held until his death. In 2005, he decided to move to make a new life in the south of France , in an area they had grown to know and love over the previous ten years or so. Sheila sold her Sherborne house. They then split their time between France and Studland, although as Michael's health had begun to need more care, he spent more time in England than Sheila did. In 2007, Cadman was diagnosed with cancer. It was treated successfully with radiation and the doctors considered that they had arrested it for about three years. He continued in good cheer and enthusiasm, painting and exhibiting until the last year or so. Unfortunately, in November 2009 when Michael was away in Cornwall on a painting trip, Sheila became ill at the house and died.
After that, Cadman's health deteriorated. He did not want to live in the 21st century but was determined to return to health and go on, until 100 if he could. He was lucky to have two very good neighbours, Les and Karen Marshall, who took him willingly wherever he wanted to go and were extremely kind and helpful. Cadman was admitted to Poole Hospital in February 2010 and transferred from there to Swanage Hospital where he died very peacefully on 17 April 2010. Just a few days before he died, he was still planning to return to his home and sort out his life's work of paintings stored there.
Cadman had a tremendous life. He had the long-term support and love of two very warm and loving women, each of whom was exactly what he needed at the time. Many men do not have such luck even once, let alone twice. He lived for his Art and made his living from his paintings, which are now to be found in collections all around the world: France, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, South Africa, USA and Japan. He built a solid reputation for his work, which will continue to grow after his death. He was a youthful, vigorous 89-year old, a man whose glass was always half full and whose possessions were few but always, to him, the very best of their kind. He was full of knowledge of the world and common sense. He loved to argue and discuss, often vehemently but always interestingly and without any ill will whether he won or lost the argument.
A poem remembering happy times with his wife Anne sums up Cadman's nostalgia for times past and his love of the English countryside:
“That I shall never look upon thee more I know Thy absence soon a distant memory... But best-remembered are those endless days Long past – the advent of the spring – gay flowers The swallows and the nightingale we heard With joy, more mystery and spirit than a bird The golden cornfields, with their poppies red 'neath azure skies – under which, on golden sands, we sat, looking out to sea, to other lands and journeys far and wide – and holidays filled with golden sunlight and content”
That is the world Michael Cadman's paintings reflect and by which he will be remembered.
Judith Coomber GLEESON (Cousin) - 7 May 2010