While out on his bike for lockdown exercise in the lanes around his Cambridgeshire home, my friend John Hunter was involved in a collision with a car and died at the scene. He was 87.
John was an inspiring art teacher, at secondary schools in Carshalton, south London, then Manchester and, from the 1970s until retirement, as head of art at Great Cornard upper school (now Thomas Gainsborough school) in Sudbury, Suffolk. His teaching combined variety, insight and encouragement, with an enthusiasm for modernism and an emphasis on traditional craft skills. His ever-youthful appearance and brilliant sense of humour made him the most popular and respected of teachers.
While teaching full time, he became chief examiner in art for the London exam board. This included marking, visiting and moderating for schools in Italy and the Middle East, and marking for some schools in Africa who still took O-levels. He continued this work for around 15 years after his retirement from teaching in 1989.
In his own work, he held firm to the solid grounding he received as a student at Hornsey College of Art in the 1950s. As well as painting landscapes and urban views in a variety of media, he was an outstanding printmaker, cutting in lino and wood. His large-scale, colourful prints, produced in his immaculately tidy studio at home, follow in a tradition including Edward Bawden.
Born in Winchmore Hill, north London, John was the only child of Ernest – originally a wood carver, then a tobacconist – and his wife Dorothy (nee Colville). He was a keen boy scout with the 173rd North London Group, remaining in touch with a close group of friends from those times. Until the 1990s, with some of them well into their 70s, they went every year on a weekend camping trip (the “boozeree”). For many years, John and my father, John Liddell, would perform as the Onzellos, a knockabout comedy act in the Group Gang Show, much to the bafflement of younger cubs and scouts.
John was a lifelong Spurs fan. As a boy he would take the bus from home to the match at White Hart Lane, sometimes seeing the Spurs players on the same bus, with their kit in a duffel bag.
John married a fellow Hornsey student, Wendy Edwards, and they had a son, Joe, in 1967. Wendy died of breast cancer shortly afterwards. Times were difficult, but through his love of New Orleans jazz in 1989 John met Jill Morrison. They moved to Cambridgeshire and lived happily ever after, finally marrying in 2005. Together they danced, travelled widely – finding a particular love of the more remote Greek islands – and returned to their immaculate cottage to grow enormous flowers and vegetables, and try to get letters published in the Guardian.
Jill survives him, as do Joe and two grandsons, Otto and Edgar.