Collector profile: John Roberts


How did you discover Michael’s work, John?

I once noticed a painting of his at a Chelsea Artists show in the Old Town Hall. Several things about it appealed. It was experimental, it was beautifully executed and it was entertaining! The title was Artist with Companion. The figure at the easel appeared to be copying a painting on the wall beside him. Before the show finished, I went back intending to buy the painting, but it had been sold. The organisers gave me Michael’s address, I made contact and we became friends.
I was happy to purchase another version Michael painted of the subject, still in his intriguing geometric, ‘cubist-influence’ style. He explained that the zig-zag near the artist’s hand represented the movement of the brush. The way Michael has handled the shadows is so impressive!


Artist with Companion

In subsequent paintings, he has developed this idea, depicting much more detail of the movement, as in The Guitarist. I had shown him a copy of the multiple portrait of Sir Adrian Boult in the Royal College of Music’s collection, in which the conductor’s baton is highly ‘animated’, as are the bows of the string-players. Perhaps this was the inspiration.

The Guitarist

What other cubist-influenced paintings of Michael’s do you have?
Doing some research into the doings at a Chelsea ‘salon’ of cultural figures such as Henry James and Arthur Rubinstein a hundred years ago, I came across the figure of the celebrated cellist Madame Suggia whose portrait by Augustus John is in the Tate Britain collection. The picture has strong angularity and I recommended it to Michael. The result was The Cellist. I love it!

The Cellist
Which other paintings by Michael appeal to you?

There is another side to Michael’s work, reflecting his strong sense of right and wrong. This is evidenced in his ‘protest surreal’ paintings The Debtor and The Old Beggar, and in Michael’s recent work The Cleansing of the Poor, which was selected for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2018. It reminds me of the haunting Self-Portrait, which was accepted for the Exhibition some forty years ago when Michael was still a student at the Slade art school. It is now in the collection of the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery at the University of Glasgow.

The Debtor
The Cleansing of the Poor