Hugh Bulley obituary

Other lives: Artist who produced a series of paintings inspired by great works of literature

My father, the artist Hugh Bulley, who has died aged 95, after a short illness, was a true individual. He rode a camel in the desert, danced in Trincomalee, wild-camped on “walkabouts” and undertook a painting sabbatical in Costa Rica.

Over 50 years his unwavering vision produced sketchbooks, prints, paintings and sculptures. With the delicate touch of a craftsman, he believed in being true to his materials. All his works were meticulously planned: built up from drawings, through colour trials and then with increasingly thick layers of oil paint.

In the 1980s he began a series of paintings inspired by great works of literature, the first based on Aristophanes’ Peace, followed by Brecht’s Mother Courage, Voltaire’s Candide and Zadig, and works of Shakespeare. He exhibited internationally and his work featured in publications across the world.

Trygaeus sends Hierocles packing in Hugh Bulley’s work based on Aristophanes’ Peace (1985-86)
Trygaeus sends Hierocles packing in Hugh Bulley’s work based on Aristophanes’ Peace (1985-86) Photograph: None

He was born in Hindhead, Surrey, at St Edmund’s school, which was run by his parents, Rosamira (nee Morgan-Brown), and Ivo. Hugh was educated at St Edmund’s, where his father was the headteacher – “In the holidays, my sporting life was akin to being a member of a country club from which every other member was absent”. In 1938 he became a cadet at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, receiving first-class honours in the passing out examinations in 1942.

During the second world war he took part in the Tobruk convoys, the Normandy D-day landings (for which he was appointed to the Légion d’honneur in 2018) and the relief of prisoner-of-war camps in east Asia. These experiences are recounted in his autobiography, A Boy at Sea (2005).

In 1963, he studied at the Central School of Art and Design in London, and began his career as a painter. In 1964, he was elected to the Art Workers’ Guild.

Hugh lived by the St Edmund’s school motto Per Manendo Vincimus (Through Perseverance We Conquer). Indeed, his idea of enjoyment was reading the classics in Latin, Ancient Greek and Farsi simultaneously.

Having lived in continental Europe since the early 1980s, he set up home in Tiengen, Germany, in the 2000s with his second wife, Christiane Peterson – and produced his final work, based on Voltaire’s Zadig, which he translated from the French and illustrated with intense colour schemes and quirky stylised figures.

In 2004 he was guest of honour at the celebrations in Ferney-Voltaire, the French town that was Voltaire’s home for many years, to mark the 250th anniversary of the publication of Candide.

Hugh is survived by Christiane, by three daughters from his first marriage, to Jean, which ended in divorce, and a grandson.

Emma Bulley

The GuardianTramp

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