LETTER: The man who took 60 years to find himself

I WAS a Brisbane boy growing up in Jay Street Red Hill and attended the Kelvin Grove State School.   

A shoeless walk of 5km morning and afternoon rain, hail or shine. When finishing my schooling I became an apprentice bricklayer attending the Central Technical College which was opposite the Brisbane Botanical Gardens for 4 Years then furthered my education by completing a Building course in Building Construction.

This allowed me to become a registered builder. Like many families back then my parents would take us to church every week.  

At Sunday School one of my teachers was Maurice Caswell, who was a talented commercial artist. It was Maurice who knew the very well-known artist John Rigby personally and arranged for me to sit for him while he taught a class of aspiring artists on a Saturday morning in St Marys Church Kangaroo Point and he too was painting while teaching the class.  

This was back in the year 1954, now over 60 years ago. John's portrait when finished was entitled "Clifford" and was displayed in some of John Rigby exhibits including the one at Johnson Gallery in 1956.  

The painting still has numbers in chalk on its rear side relating to where it was last hung. John also did cartoons which was not his main work but post war did a sports cartoon spot for the Sunday Mail while still doing his art and fine art for which he became well known.  

Two years ago I decided I would like to view my portrait in it's original form again and maybe acquire it as a memory of my youth. Trying to track the painting, I made enquiries to many galleries including the gallery at Caloundra, where I now live, hoping that someone may have a contact who would help me in my search.  

I did hear that it might be at Queensland University gallery so organised for someone at the university to check this out but with no luck. I found a web site belonging to the late John Rigby, which was not then in use. Some months later I decided to try John's web site again.

  I sent an email to the contact address and fortunately, John's son Mark replied, confirming that he knew of the painting but was not sure of its whereabouts, but would look into it for me. Mark manages the Planetarium at Mt Coot-Tha, Brisbane.  

A later email from Mark confirmed that he now knew the location of that elusive painting and this was very welcome news. After more emails back and forth to discuss how I could view the painting I plucked up the courage to ask the price.  

To my joy and great surprise Mark replied that he and his mother (John's wife) would agree to my having the painting at no cost, with the proviso that if the painting was needed for a showing at any time it would be returned to them for that exhibition.  

When the day finally arrived, Mark could see my excitement so he suggested that we should have photos to commemorate the occasion and to show his mother. I did purchase one of the fascinating books that Mark, in conjunction with a fellow author, has written about his father.  

(John Rigby ART and LIFE, PLAYWRIGHT PublishING PTY LTD, 0 949 853 86 0)  

So now I am the proud owner of a portrait of myself called "Clifford" by the very well-known artist John Rigby, painted in 1954. And my name (you guessed it) is Clifford Travers.


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