Terry Durham (1936-2013)

From his debut exhibition in London in 1963, Terry Durham's distinctive artwork has captured imaginations and been enjoyed in people's homes all over the world. Terry was best known as a painter, but also produced exceptional work as a poet, songwriter, vocalist, sculptor, and author plus an illustrator of children's books.

Terry Durham was born on 24 September 1936 in the former mining village of East Ardsley, West Yorkshire. He had a keen interest in art and painting from a very early age, which continued despite some resistance from within the comparatively conventional industrial community in which he lived. Mostly self-taught, he studied and was greatly inspired by the works of Paul Klee and a wide range of other European artists such as Picasso, Gauguin, and Matisse. He attended the Leeds College of Art before pursuing painting as his profession. On leaving West Yorkshire, he lived in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly for two years before spending a number of years in London, where he exhibited his artwork publicly for the first time in 1963.

His time spent as a young man on the arts and music scene of the capital in the 1960s catapulted Terry from the boy from a working class Yorkshire village into the media spotlight and attention of some high profile fans, including Bill Wyman, Muriel Sparks, Lulu and Andrew Bown of Status Quo. Terry's early London exhibitions were widely covered in the local press, and he also appeared on television regularly through his tours with the band Storyteller. Media appearances included the John Peel Show and Folk Club on BBC Radio, BBC Radio North, BBC Look North, Yorkshire Television (Calendar) and TV Paris France.

Rubbing shoulders with the likes of the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix, and the fact that he lived around the corner from a young David Bowie (originally Jones), no doubt helped influence his own musical forays and lyric writing.

A prolific poet, Terry's way with words is no better demonstrated than in the heartfelt lyrics of his 1969 solo album Crystal Telephone (available on Amazon), Storyteller (produced by Peter Frampton) by the band of the same name that he helped to form, and Storyteller's second offering More Pages. Other members of Storyteller included Roger Moon, Mike Rogers and the late Caroline Attard. Storyteller was the support act for a UK tour by Ralph McTell, beginning at the Festival Hall, London. The group also appeared on various bills with The Humblebums (Gerry Rafferty and Billy Connolly), Hawkwind, and Vinegar Joe (Elkie Brooks and Robert Palmer).

Fans have described his solo work Crystal Telephone as "a wonderfully different album", "Yorkshire's answer to Serge Gainsbourg" and "a beautiful piece of poetry and music - a very unique balsam for the soul”.

But Terry's principal focus would always remain his painting. One of his pieces appeared and was analysed by his friend, the late biologist and science historian Jacob Bronowski, in an episode of the acclaimed 1974 television series 'The Ascent of Man' and the accompanying book.

Bronowski wrote: "The first question we ask is, is the human brain a better computer - a more complex computer? Of course, artists in particular tend to think of the brain as a computer. So in his "Portrait of Dr Bronowski" Terry Durham has symbols of the spectrum and the computer, because that is how an artist imagines a scientist's brain." (Excerpt from "The Ascent of Man", first published in hardback by the British Broadcasting Corporation in 1973. © Estate of Jacob Bronowski).

Terry returned to his Yorkshire roots in 1976 but continued exhibiting in London and further afield. Life in the UK afforded him the ability to pursue other artistic opportunities in tandem with his 'day to day' professional painting career. Examples of this included Forest Folk, a collection of outdoor garden sculptures, and his children's books, from storybook "Angus Pangus and The One Jump Giant" to a range of three colouring and activity books - "Crazy Characters", "Creepy Creatures" and "Cosmic Capers".

In 1993, Terry moved with his family to the Algarve, southern Portugal, where he lived for 11 years, and was particularly inspired by the people, colours, landscape and architecture. During his time there, in addition to painting professionally, he had many successful exhibitions, was employed regularly as a mural painter and, going back to his musical roots of the 1960-70s, performed as vocalist for a rock and blues band. With Portugal as his base, he also had several international exhibitions, including five in Berlin and one on the island of Jersey.

In 2003, Terry moved to Porto Seguro in the Bahia municipality of north-east Brazil where the vibrant colours, wildlife and tribal cultures played a significant part in the numerous paintings and sketches he would complete during his time there and in the future.

As well as spending his time painting and travelling, he was commissioned by the proprietors of a Portuguese and Jamaican themed beach restaurant and music venue, That Shack, to bring the venue to life through murals painted in his own unique style.

In 2007, Terry travelled from Brazil to Alora, a town in the province of Malaga, Andalucia, Spain, where he was to spend his later years.

Alora became very close to Terry’s heart and the town significantly inspired his artwork and writing. He had major individual and group exhibitions in Alora and Malaga and participated in regional art competitions. When not painting professionally he taught art classes for children and adults. His work can still be seen in various establishments in Alora as murals and caricatures, and he was widely and fondly known in the area as 'el artista' (the artist) or 'el maestro' (the teacher).

Terry died peacefully at the age of 77 on 6th December 2013 and is interred in Alora cemetery. Terry leaves behind two children, a son Nick and a daughter Charley, their spouses Alison and Sam, two grandchildren Nicole and Michael (Nick’s children), as well as many loyal friends in Alora and around the world who remember him dearly.

Charley and Sam continue to manage and run this website, together with his Facebook and Twitter pages. We heartily welcome any enquiries from those who knew Terry or his work during his lifetime.