Cover photo for Ian Harley Marshall's Obituary
Ian Harley Marshall Profile Photo
1933 Ian 2016

Ian Harley Marshall

January 28, 1933 — December 2, 2016

Ian Harley Marshall: A Portrait of the Artist (Jan 1933 – Dec 2016) Painting ships, Ian observed, has some of the same challenges as painting portraits. The painting, beyond revealing the complex depth of the subject, should say something about the personality of the sitter.  The portrait of Ian Harley Marshall reveals a lively personality, focused and generous. The composition of the canvas captures attention: it is imbued with qualities of integrity, intellectual generosity, and joy. A painting, any good painting, should have something to say. Well-travelled, the mementos surrounding the artist reveal his sense of belonging in many cultures. The well-tempered construction of his great buildings in Africa, modern, ambitious works revealing an optimistic confidence in the futures of Kenya, and Botswana.  The collection of mahogany Indian elephants stepping in front of the Firth of Forth painting: his family history of travel connecting with his own experience of Scotland in times of war.  Painted in overlapping composition, the garden follies from his school days at Stowe in England; and the granite stone paperweight, collected from the shore of Mt Desert. Lively in mind and conversation, the portrait shows feet set firmly on the sands of Rocky Brae, the heart-stone for his family, in companionship, warmth and love. The artist is saying listen, imagine. His support for his children, Jessie, Rebecca and Paxton, allows the unexpected, revels in the unconventional, but never admits the facile. Quality, he writes, will not be found in art that is trite. Design, dance, administration, writing, the law, the creation of theatre, architecture, and the raising of beloved grandchildren, are all held to the same high standards: the intellectual and emotional effort is expected, and made; the resulting work must be economical, elegant, genuine and neat. The artist presents a brief glimpse, an insight, fleeting effects. How much fun he has had! Woven into the composition is Ian’s wife Jean: debating urban decisions in Boston, Edinburgh, Botswana, collaborating on new urban visions in Selebi-Phikwe, Serowe, Jwaneng; teaching in Edinburgh.  We glimpse them climbing Arthur’s Seat with a deerhound running in the mist, camping on the beach in Aegina, swimming at Simon’s Bay, rattling across Southern Africa to the train’s rhythm, sailing up Somes Sound in Maine on a summer evening, dancing on the closing night of the Deck House.  Fifty-eight years of debates on local housing ordinances are fully woven into dinner conversations about politics, music, ships’ histories and shared memories. Playing the violin or the triangle with Harley, Ella and Kique at the Freedom Talent Show, they model a commitment to life’s energy, love and endurance. The portrait has so much to say. Stretching across maritime collections and Naval Museums, his ships, the skies, the waters, celebrate the dance of movement on paper.   There is always something new that the artist finds interesting: the composition of a naval parade through the framing streetscape of Malta, the morning colors rippling on Ossipee lake, an article, a book, a new friend. The portrait invites us to share, to understand, to enjoy, and to love. Join us to celebrate his life in August 2017, in Freedom, NH. Donations may be made to IHM Maru-a-Pula Art Scholarship.
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