The Wick - Nancy Cadogan Portrait The Wick - Nancy Cadogan Portrait
Monday Muse

Interview British-American artist Nancy Cadogan

Nancy Cadogan
17 March 2021
Nancy Cadogan
17 March 2021
If you’ve ever wondered what “heaven on canvas” looks like, according to The Evening Standard, you simply need to check out British-American artist Nancy Cadogan’s work. Following solo shows at Frost & Reed, New York, London’s Sladmore Contemporary and a sell-out exhibition at Saatchi Gallery entitled Mind Zero in 2019, Cadogan has consistently been rated among the UK’s top talent and even earned praise as the “new Paula Rego”. Her newest collection of paintings takes her to Rome and the Keats-Shelley House Museum. While others baked banana bread, Cadogan created Gusto, a celebration of her love of literature and the legacy of Keats and his friend Joseph Severn, as the world went into global lockdown.

THE WICK:   Talk us through a typical Monday.

Nancy Cadogan:   Since March 8th, my Monday routine has wonderfully returned to some semblance of normality; as homeschooling has come to an end. It has returned to coffee and a brief read of the newspaper, a quick stretch before a long chat with my paintings. I have a blue armchair in the corner of the studio, which I like to sit in with my coffee and find out what the pictures are saying in the morning.
I have taken huge pleasure in my garden and strong coffee during lockdown– I love my stove top espresso maker, it takes just the right amount of time and gives a good injection of energy for the day. I always think about Dolly Parton in the morning. .. ‘wake up in the morning…’

I say a quick hello to the chickens and wake up the tortoise, Aesop, who lives in the studio. He arrived at the same time as some bunnies, so it seemed to make sense to call him Aesop after the fable The Hare and the Tortoise. Like many families, we doubled down on pets during this last year.

And then I am ready to go.

TW:   You’ve recently achieved some fantastic career highs, including an exhibition at Brown’s Hotel and Rome’s Keats-Shelley House museum. What was the inspiration behind your latest work, Gusto?

NC:   Thank you for being so kind. It was a huge honour to be invited to make a show for the Keats-Shelley 200 celebration. Gusto is a celebration of Keats’s life, his friendship with Joseph Severn and the legacy of his work, which lives with us. The whole thesis of the show evolved when we entered the first lockdown in March 2020 and the work came to echo Keats’s own time in quarantine and his premature passing from tuberculosis. It is inspired by his poetry, his bravery and his brilliance. It was an extraordinary coincidence to be making a show about Keats and his time in lockdown with TB whilst we were in lockdown.

TW:   Did Covid-19 change the way you approach your work and painting?

NC:   Yes and no. In some ways, things are the same. I am still in my studio, at home, painting my pictures. But the mindset feels very different. Like everyone, I am sure, trying to keep the anxiety at bay is a challenge.

That said, I love the togetherness that has come through in the art world, and the whole world, over this time. I hope that sense of collaboration remains. I did two Saatchi live drawing and painting sessions over the first lockdown, and it was heartwarming to work alongside people from all over the world.

TW:   If you had to live with only one artist in your home, who would you choose and why?

NC:   This is such a good question and impossible to answer. I would probably live with an early David Hockney, as his work was the original source and the inspiration for my becoming a painter. He’s ultimately positive and sees good in the world.

I grew up spending time looking at early Hockney, ‘The Berliner and the Bavarian’, ‘Doll Boy’ and the later ‘Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy’, and all the incredible series of double portraits. I love the placement of objects within the space, and the sense of calm and the whole narrative that is created.

Or.. If we are really aiming for the sky, I would love to live with Vermeer. The sheer perfection of painting, alongside, the private domesticity of his work would be a dream. It is in the mind, and you, the viewer, are brought into the subject’s world.

“I love the togetherness that has come through in the art world, and the whole world, over this time. I hope that sense of collaboration remains.”

TW:   What’s your favourite culturally curious spot and why?

NC:   I am lucky enough to go to Lake Como. Her beautiful buildings combined with the landscape around it’ and the fantastical weather is hugely inspirational. My favourite place is situated opposite Bellagio – Villa Balbianello. It was the idyllic retreat of Cardinal Durini during the 1600’s, and is now owned by the Italian National Trust, FAI.

Closer to home, Sir John Soane’s Museum is a treasure trove in the middle of London. As an art student, I spent a lot of time there learning to draw.  

And, of course, the Keats-Shelley House in Rome. It is hard to describe the magic of this little museum dedicated to the legacy of the Romantic poets. It is full of treasures and books and immerses you in the world of the 1820’s, in Rome

TW:   Who is your ultimate Monday Muse and why?

NC:   The list of inspirational women is wonderfully long!! I was taken to see Michelle Obama talk in her Becoming series, and sobbed the whole way through. What a woman. Her decency and intelligence and rationale is a tonic. She is paving the way for so many women.

I would like to sit at the feet of Sophia Loren, because she is everything! Her very name conjurs up La Dolce Vita.

I was reminded about her recently and thrilled to be so. In an interview she talked about her ubringing and her devoted appproach to family and work. Yet again, her integrity, intelligence and kindness shone through. She works hard. She is so fabulous. I remember a radio interview where they told her that there was a pizza named after her in Rome.

And then I would love to have a long chat with Virgina Woolf. I paint about her and her writing all the time.

TW:   What would be your advice to younger artists starting out in this brave new world?

NC:   Keep going and believe in yourself and believe in your work. Put the work first, always. It will speak for itself.

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