Jocelyn Merivale Painting

Jocelyn Merivale: A Brush with Distinction



Jocelyn Merivale was an accomplished artist who lived and painted in Wimbledon for 30 years. But you are probably not familiar with her work. The reason is that she seldom exhibited, even though she possessed a strong talent and an art school education. Her gift was to encourage others to make their own art. She taught in schools and was especially attuned to young children needing support with their mental health. She helped students of all ages to value their achievements and apply that experience, as she did, to managing life’s shifts and turns.

Her preferred subjects were the patterns of nature and the force of the sea, and the colour of our surroundings and the sensations released by light and texture. She liked intricate structures and was as content sketching the geometry of a rickety deckchair as the folds of a peony flower.

But she also painted the inner world of the mind – even the friction of anxiety. Her pictures of calm and stormy seas often hint at her awareness of the ups and downs of life. Jocelyn had first-hand knowledge – as a sharp observer of the everyday and the unusual, as a mother and homemaker and, in her last few months, as someone faced with a serious diagnosis. She died in 2014, still young at 66. Her career as a painter was a private affair, which belonged in her studio at the top of the house she shared with her husband John and their growing family. A number of paintings have the studio as their subject, sometimes with Jocelyn portraying herself at work. For an artist the studio is like a laboratory: it is where experiments are made that take the artist’s perceptions forward.

Her time in the studio could be intense. She found quiet there when she wanted it and played music when she needed accompaniment. When she could, she enrolled on life-drawing courses because observing the figure with almost forensic clarity was the heart of her way of working. Her father was a gifted draughtsman, too, and taught architecture in London and Manchester: he insisted his students learned to observe through drawing. So drawing reminded Jocelyn of her father, a constant influence, and even incorporated posed models from his drawings into her later paintings

In her many paintings of the sea, the water is sometimes calm and on other occasions the surface is whipped into fury by a storm. A single boat is frequently seen, ploughing the tranquil ocean or taking on the waves. Jocelyn was drawn to the danger implicit in such symbolism and after John framed her pictures, she often carried the painting onto that surround as if the sensation she was evoking could not be contained.

She would hang her work around the house; only three or four times did she exhibit them. To be an artist in any medium is to make your creativity publicly available for strangers who form opinions of what you do, which is after all a part you. Although most choose to, artists are not obliged to exhibit. Jocelyn painted above all because she needed to. And then she painted for her family and for friends. Gradually, however, word is spreading about her incredible career in art.


‘Jocelyn Merivale’ by John Merivale and Martin Holman is on sale in a hardback edition online and at Wimbledon Books and Waterstone’s, Wimbledon, at £45.