Fermin Rocker British, 1907-2004

Born in Stepney in London's East End to politically engaged immigrant parents in 1907, Fermin spent his formative years there and then in Berlin, before settling in New York in 1929. He returned to London in 1972 and continued to paint up until a few weeks before his death in at the age of 96. Captivated by the proximity of the docks and the shipping on the Thames, Fermin began drawing as a child. He served his apprenticeship as a lithographer and was engaged primarily in commercial work both in Germany and the early years in America, including participation in the Fleischer studio productions of Betty Boop and Popeye, and subsequently earned a living largely through childrens' book illustration. While receiving little formal training as a painter, he pursued this increasingly as his financial situation and time commitments permitted, and, after returning to England, devoted himself to painting almost exclusively. He saw himself in a naturalistic tradition dating back to his heroes of the Italian Renaissance and the Dutch School, with later influences from the early Impressionists, and the social realism of artists such as Kathe Kollitz and Moses Sawyer. Fermin's early meticulous draughtsmanship earned him the prestigious Philidelphia Print Prize in 1946, as well as exhibitions at the Whitney Museum and Kennedy Gallery in New York. His painting, both in oil and watercolour, embraces a diversity of themes ranging from the domestic and everyday to scenes of civil strife and calamity. While including numerous portraits as well as a number of pure land or townscapes, he generally focusses on human figures set in a context. Through the 1980's and 1990's he exhibited at Stephen Bartley's Gallery in Chelsea, followed by several well-received retrospective exhibitions at the Chambers Gallery in Farringdon.