Denis Wirth- Miller            

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The Wivenhoe Encyclopedia

Obituary

 Denis Wirth-Miller 27 November 1915 – 27 October 2010  

Denis Wirth-Miller, surviving civil partner of the late Richard Wasey Chopping (obituary Wivenhoe News Summer 2008) with whom he had shared his life for 71 years, has died of end-stage vascular dementia.  Born in Folkestone, of a Bavarian father and an English mother, Denis began work as a commercial artist at the age of 16, leaving this work in 1939.  Although without any formal art training, he remained a full time painter from then on.  His work appeared in a number of exhibitions, from 1944 on, and his first big break was the purchase by HM The Queen of his Landscape for the Royal Collection in 1953.  Denis had a distinctive style, both in his landscapes of East Anglia and of Dartmoor, and in his studies of dogs in motion.  He was one of Francis Bacon’s closest friends – although the relationship has been described as stormy – and they worked together on a number of paintings in the 1950s.  

Denis lived in Wivenhoe for about 65 years. He and Dicky Chopping bought The Store House on Wivenhoe Quay in 1944, but because of wartime restrictions they did not actually move in until a year or so later.  They completely renovated the old warehouse, putting in the bay windows on the ground and first floor which have made the building such a handsome feature of the waterfront.  True characters, the two artists came to Wivenhoe as a confident established couple in times of illegality.  They did not hide behind net curtains.  The contribution they made to the life of Wivenhoe helped produce the cosmopolitan and tolerant society it is today.  With them came a slew of interesting and talented people – the last of the Bloomsbury set.  But by the same token, they were extremely generous, and were great fundraisers.  After the war they did a lot of charitable work, alongside Marjorie Dean, raising money for the orphans and children of war-torn Europe.  Denis was also a keen gardener, and a member of WAGA. 

Denis gave up painting in 1975 because of deteriorating vision, and he put up with this disability for the rest of his life without whingeing.  Although no longer actively painting, he took a keen interest in the work and development of young artists in Wivenhoe.  Denis and Dicky, this colourful pair who between them were a true creative force, had been together as a couple for 71 years by the time that Dicky died in 2008. 

Denis died in Colchester General Hospital on 27 October 2010.  He donated his body to Cambridge University Hospital for medical research.  We shall not see the like of him again.  

Daniel Chapman, executor and friend

Last updated:
05 January 2015

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