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More on Desmond Morris

  •  From an article Barry Leighton did last year on Johnny and Desmond Morris: Desmond, whose 1967 book The Naked Ape – a study of human behaviour from a zoologist's perspective - became an international bestseller, is an altogether different creature. Television presenter, film-maker, author, zoologist…..but also one of Britain’s finest surrealist painters. Born in Purton in 1928, he moved to Victoria Road, Swindon when he was five, attended long gone Swindon High School in Bath Road and having become “obsessed with art,” created a furor with his first exhibition, aged 20, at Swindon Arts Centre. Some 44 years later he was back in Swindon, at the Bath Road gallery, for a major retrospective. Desmond, whose surrealist works have been exhibited all over the world, said at the time: “People think my painting is a hobby, but it isn’t. I was doing it long before the other stuff and it’s more important to me than anything else.” Which brings us nicely onto Diana Dors’ lips. In 2002, Swindon council acquired – with £1,000 each from the Friends of the Museum and Art Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum – a Morris original. Girl Selling Flowers is a collage of colourful imagery with a gorgeous pair of ruby red lips at its heart. Desmond painted it when he was 18 after returning to Swindon from London’s Petticoat Lane market. On the phone from his Oxfordshire home he said: “I wanted to capture the colour and noise from hundreds of market stalls. Diana, who was a couple of years younger than me, was my girlfriend at the time. “I decided to incorporate her into the painting. Those big red lips symbolised Diana – they were her logo. These days stars have surgical treatment to get lips like that but Diana’s were natural.” After a second or two, and perhaps a sigh, he added: “I have very vivid memories of Diana’s lips.” Who wouldn’t!

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