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David Wolfers (Read 4753 times)
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David Wolfers
Mar 3rd, 2002, 3:14pm
A former Bush House journalist, David Wolfers, has died at the age of 84.

Before joining the BBC he worked for the Manchester Evening Chronicle. After leaving Bush he joined Shell as a public relations man, and later founded his own art gallery, the New Grafton, in Mayfair.  This was later re-located to Barnes.

A member of the Bushmen cricket team recalls David Wolfers as "a tall. strong chap who hit the ball very hard - he batted no 6 or 7 and very often doubled the Bushmen score".
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Re: David Wolfers
Reply #1 - Mar 12th, 2002, 6:00pm
David worked for the External Services in the early fifties as a talks writer in the European Service. He left to join the Shell PR department in 1957. He played for the Bushmen CC throughout the fifties and was captain of the team in 1955. He played over thirty innings , joining with great Bushmen names like Maurice Latey, Len Woollard, Hugh Greene and Christopher Dilke.

His early life was eventful - he was born in China, educated partly in America and later at Radley, going up to Worcester College, Oxford in 1937 (where he appeared in a painting of college undergraduates by Edward Halliday, looking nonchalant and holding a squash racquet). The war prevented him taking a degree: he joined the army and fought with the Royal Artillery and the Fourth Indian Division, in the battles of Sidi Barrani and Gazala, and finally Tobruk, where he was captured. He was awarded the MC, though he was always modest about it. He emerged from a German Prisoner of War camp in 1945 weighing eight stone. Initially he worked as a journalist, alongside Ian Fleming and in Paris, and when he left for Shell he edited magazines.

But his passion was art - English art, preferably figurative, and his preferred taste was for the academic. He was friends with Rodrigo Moynihan, John Minton, John Piper and Elisabeth Frink - and was later to be executor for John Nash. Before long he set up a gallery in Mayfair with borrowed money (all of which he repaid with interest) in Grafton Street, later moving to premises above Agnew's; but rents rose so steeply he moved to the gallery in Barnes by the pond where he held court for so long.

The New Grafton became a haven for young and promising artists. David talent-spotted at the diploma exhibitions of the London art schools and colleges, and gave many a young artist his or her  first show - alongside Peter Greenham, Mary Fedden,Carel Weight, Fred Cuming and Ken Howard. His house was stuffed with pictures, and he entertained generously. He once took me to the Garrick to show me the club's art collection. He wasn't interested in making a lot of profit - he rather despised commercial dealers - but took his pleasure in  using what one paper called his "extraordinary visual judgement" and backing his hunches. The Guardian called  his gallery, the New Grafton, "one of the best small galleries in London". He had kept most of his clientele when he moved out of the West End, and in recent years his website brought in new customers.  You can see it here. Lazy art critics seldom made the short journey out to his private views.

As a man he could sometimes seem laconic and grumpy, but he always had a twinkle. and once his interest was roused, in painting or poetry or cricket (or women, come to that) he was excellent company. He was loyal to his artists ( and as some of them  have testified, very loyal but prepared to be critical). His daughter Claudia   is continuing to run the gallery. Charmingly, it was recorded that ex-Major Wolfers visited his old army batman until he died. At his exhibition previews he always had the same wine waiter. And he was still running the gallery in his mid- eighties. He never wanted to retire. Two years ago he told 'The Artist':  "I'm not in dealing for the money, because there are many more lucrative ways of earning a living. I'm not a salesman, but I do have a certain eye and I hope that other people share my taste in art. It's very difficult to say what makes a good picture but I like poetry and originality in a painting; maybe that's enough".
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