Richard Wasey Chopping 1917-2008
Richard “Dicky” Chopping, a
distinguished resident of Wivenhoe, died on 17 April, aged 91. He was best
known as the illustrator who designed several first edition covers for Ian
Fleming’s James Bond novels, but preferred to be remembered as a writer. He
also taught for many years, first at Colchester School of Art and later at
the Royal College of Art.
Richard was born in
Colchester, the scion of a local milling family; his father was Colchester’s
mayor 1921-22. He was educated at Gresham’s School, Norfolk where one of
his contemporaries was Benjamin Britten, with whom he remained friends. He
began his artistic education as head cook and bottle-washer to another great
East Anglian artist, Cedric Morris, with whom also Lucien Freud was studying
at the time.
Another Freudian connection
was Frances Partridge, who, long before anyone had heard of a database,
performed the enormous task of indexing the 24-volume complete works of
Sigmund Freud. With her, at the end of the second world war, Richard began
a monumental multi-volume project for Penguin Books: an encyclopaedia of
British wild flowers, she writing the text, he painting the illustrations,
but after seven years the project was abandoned as uneconomic.
Richard lived in Wivenhoe for
more than sixty years. He bought his house on Wivenhoe Quay in 1944, but
because of wartime restrictions (both Wivenhoe’s shipyards were engaged in
the war effort) he did not actually move in till 1946. He and his partner
of 70 years, Denis Wirth-Miller, became part of the “artists’ colony” that
led to the formation of the Wivenhoe Arts Club in the 1970s. Many creative
people found their way to Wivenhoe at that time, perhaps the best known of
whom was Richard’s friend, Francis Bacon.
Richard clearly had a great
fondness for Wivenhoe. Right to the last he was ready to do his bit for the
town. Just a few years ago he made a very generous donation the Shipyard
Project which was trying to save Cook’s from development as housing. More
recently, despite being very frail and almost blind, he presented himself at
the Town Hall, prepared to speak at the hearing of the Licensing Committee
about an application for greatly extended hours at the Rose and Crown. Last
autumn, he also spoke most forcefully at an Extraordinary General Meeting of
the Wivenhoe Society, where he got a round of applause, I think for his
fortitude, as well as for what he had said.