"I was conceived in Venice and born on Sydenham Hill, more years ago that I care to remember; with the wind in the right direction on a clear night he bells of St Mary-le-Bow would have just been audible, so I claim to be a cockney.
My father couldn't stand screaming children and I was quickly farmed out on my grandparents who lived at Chevening under the North Downs. Now it is the junction of the M25 and the M26, but then it was unfledged, unspoilt country. Nanny was a great walker and would push me for miles in my pram. These walks instilled in me a love of the English countryside-some of my earliest memories are of Darenth Valley, that beautiful gap in the Downs that inspired Samuel Palmer over a hundred years before.
Being the eldest son I had to follow my father into the family business. I loathed it and as soon as I could I advertised for a manager. A genius arrived from Derby, up went the profit, all my friends (most of whom had had their hand in the till) got the sack. There was nothing left for me to do. "Cecil", I said one morning "can you run this business without me?". The reply "Only without you" made me a painter.
Dear John Ward, a life long friend took me to Venice, stuck me in front of the Santa Maria della Salute at 5 o'clock in the morning and said "Paint that". "How the hell do I start?". "Oh at the top and work downwards" and he was gone.
Surprisingly I did just that, I put three pictures in the Academy on my return and they all sold on private view day- I could do it!
And so I became a painter- I was under thirty. I have always been in dear John's debt for light, sunshine, beauty and loveliness have been my companion for nearly all my life.
I did the usual thing, a show here a show there. A dear friend commissioned me to paint Canterbury Cathedral for an Archbishop to give to a Pope, I forget which one. I put up for the Royal Watercolour Society- they accepted me and nearly eighteen years later they elected me President.
I showed with Anthony Spink in St Jame's for many years but sadly a few years ago they moved to Bond Street and now only trade in old masters- I would have to die before they could deal in Doyles." John Doyle