Maurice Sumray took up engraving first, and when he was 29 he won a scholarship to Goldsmith's College. He claimed that his earlier work was far better than anything he did later, perhaps because of the influence of the engraving. the British Museum purchase of two of his works encouraged him greatly and he began to exhibit internationally.
Born in London, Sumray and his wife Pat returned to her native Cornwall in the late 1960s where they lived and he worked in a flat overlooking Porthmeor Beach, St Ives. Maurice was an irascible, intriguing and unpredictable artist who worked from a studio in his own home, and took meticulous care and immense time over his paintings, always working with a small, thin brush, taking up to a year to complete any painting. Always symbolic in presentation - apples, baskets, tin and paper figures representing circus performers, flowers, birds (The Little White Dove an example) - were combined and re-combined in painting after painting. However, the meanings were to him alone, and these he never explained.
Major retrospectives of his work were mounted at the Penwith Gallery, St Ives in 1984, and at the Falmouth Art Gallery in 1997 to great acclaim. Though often dismissive of both his admirers and his critics, the latter exhibition brought him great pleasure.
In 2001, when Brittain and Cook profiled 40 of the major artists of the area, he made the following statement: 'My work is the type you either love or hate and the people who love them must see their sensuous side. Painting is a passion but for me there are other passions, one you love it, the next you hate it. I'd sooner play a game of poker.' And that he did with frequency, taking the opportunity whenever he sold a major painting, to flee to London where a not infrequent partner at poker was the Egyptian actor Omar Shariff. In London he would stay until he had lost the money he had made.
works and access
Works include: Little White Dove (private col); The Old Jew (col pl: p21 Exh Cat Falmouth 2000); The Crowning of Creir (1993) illus in Brittain & Cook
Brittain, Sarah and Cook, Simon (2001) Behind the Canvas, 40 Artists working in West Cornwall;
Exhibition catalogues (WCAA)
Exh Cat: 20 Years of Contemporary Art at Falmouth Art Gallery 1980-2000
Hardie (1995) 100 Years in Newlyn/Diary
Obituary by P Davies (2004) The Independent (online)