George Callaghan - Register of Artists' Models
RAM The Register of Artists Models

GEORGE CALLAGHAN - Obituary

The death of a much-loved artist and tutor has shocked London models
VIC STEVENS offers a first reaction

When Malvern Hostick, George's colleague of nearly thirty years at London's Working Men's College, called me an hour ago with the news that George had died, it felt as though a large chunk of my modelling history had fallen away. This was only a passing sensation, of course, because George will not easily be forgotten, either by me or a very large number of other models, colleagues, friends, acquaintances and admirers. When George's family found his address book, they realized they were going to have to postpone the funeral to give them time to let all the people in it know of the arrangements.

George Callaghan began teaching life drawing at the Working Men's College around 1973, having been a student there (and later at the Royal Academy). Some current RAM members posed for George as long ago as that, but my first session for his WMC class was in 1988. We hit it off straight away. He had a friendly and humorous, yet thoroughly professional manner with models. Like all the best life drawing tutors, he had done some modelling himself, in student days.
George was full of enthusiasm for his job and was always ready to express his gratitude for a tough pose well-held. I can give the following extraordinary example of this. In about 1990 I did a four-week standing pose with a peculiar sort of twist, which required my feet to be in odd positions relative to each other. It was four or five years before I worked for him again, and in the models' changing area I found a piece of hardboard with a sheet of paper stuck to it. On the paper were two black footprints (the WMC studio floors were always filthy). I asked George about it and he said  "Don't you recognize the funny angle of the footprints?  That's the sheet of paper you stood on when you did that amazing pose a few years ago.  I kept it in case you ever came back."  He then put the board on the floor and asked me to get back in the same position. I must admit that I was a bit dismayed by the prospect of another four weeks in that pose, but I was also very flattered. Naturally, he bought me a pint in the pub afterwards, a good old tradition sadly neglected by most tutors these days.

George was a great supporter of the work of RAM, and made annual donations, although he was prevented by the model booking system at the WMC from making sure that all models booked to work for him were members. In 1998 an unfortunate and probably avoidable dispute between the college and RAM arose after models had complained about matters totally unrelated to George. RAM published criticisms of the WMC in Bare Facts magazine, and this caused an uncomfortable division of loyalties in George. He wrote a long letter to Bare Facts, published in issue 8, strongly defending the college, its history and its traditions. The Working Men's College will not need to be told that it has lost one of its pillars.

The funeral of George Callaghan took place at St Mary's Church, Green Street Green, Orpington on 10th June 2003, and was attended by a large number of people.  The funeral of Miss Vanek, who is the subject of the obituary on the next page, took place on the same day, thus causing a dilemma for those who had known both of them.

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