Latham, John, 1921-2006. (1 of 18). National Life Story Collection: Artists' Lives

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  • Recording date

    1998-03-26 and 1998-04-06 and 1999-02-19 and 2000-07-18

  • Recording locations

    Interviewer's home, London, United Kingdom

  • Interviewees

    Latham, John, 1921-2006 (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Steveni, Barbara, 1928- (speaker, female), Roberts, Melanie (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 1. John Latham (JL) was born in Northern Rhodesia [1921 ] where his father worked for the colonial civil service. He talks of his mother preferring to be based in Capetown rather than Rhodesia, from where she travelled to Southampton with the children. JL talks of his father being a 'straight guy' who had received commendations when fighting in the African campaign in WW1. He also refers to his father's public position in life and his Christian piety, but felt that at a personal level he was distant - both literally and personally. This was a second marriage for Latham's mother who was a widow from the Battle of the Somme and JL felt that this second marriage did not offer her the same sort of affection as the first. His mother had some financial independence from an inheritance from her industrial forbears which gave her freedom to travel and educate JL in England. JL talks of going to a convent boarding school from the age of 5 which he did not feel was productive in any way. JL remembers his mother being a bit more affectionate than his father but felt there was a problem there too. Briefly describes his home in Livingstone and talks of going up river in a dugout boat with his father. Talks about his father working for a film company to educate Bantu tribes after his role as District Commissioner had ended. JL talks about his relationship with the servants at home and his sense of being a loner from an early age. He describes how this extended to his school experience which he saw as starting negatively and slowly, moving towards a feeling of community towards the end of his school career, partly developing out of a response to the rise of Nazism. John Latham talks about this latter period as one where he was able to develop his interest in painting. He refers to his mother's father being a doctor who lived on a smallholding, and he also remembers visiting an aunt who had inherited Caverswall Castle in Stoke on Trent. K tells of one of his childhood visits to the Castle, describing the lifestyle of the time, his cousins, and what subsequently became of them. JL talks about his half-sister and his sister. He gives a strong sense of being ungrounded in the early part of his life until his imagination was 'caught' by the work of several painters. Talks of feeling fear at his prep school.

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