Autobiography & Memoir
Trees and Monkeys #2
My uncle Claude had fathered a son when he was in his mid 70s. When the divorce laws changed he finally married Anna, the mother of their son Lewis who was affectionately called Gino.
Gino at the age of 7 was an artistic boy sketching and playing around with inks on paper. One of these chef d'oevres was entitled 'Trees and monkeys'.
Uncle Claude was on the board of the Royal Academy in some capacity and when the annual Summer Exhibition came around, as a practical joke, he submitted 'Trees and monkeys' before the Hanging Committee. It was accepted! In those days there were no rules and regulations as to the age of the applicant. Milais had been the youngest painter in art history and now my little cousin.
My uncle was at the opening soirée speaking to a journalist who recognised the name Lyons. Standing in front of the black and white ink painting uncle Claude proudly said it was created by his son Gino. As Claude was well into his 70s, for some reason the journalist asked how old his son was, imagining no doubt that Gino would be in his 40s or 50s and surprised that he was not present at the vernissage. Claude thought for a moment and said he would have been 7 at the time and that he was 9 now.
What a to do??? Horror of horrors. This made a mockery of The Royal Academy. The media loved the half Jewish, half Catholic boy. Gino was immediately on BBC TV with Claude, Anna and Cardinal Heanan representing the Catholic Church. Kandinsky wrote from America. Art collectors and dealers wrote to Uncle Claude wanting to sponsor young Gino. In the end nothing happened and it all fizzled out as quickly as it had started except the Summer Exhibition at The Royal Academy changed its rules and regulations to a minimum age for applicants and Gino ended up in the Guinness book of records as the youngest artist ever to have exhibited at The Royal Academy.
I lost touch with the Lyons family. Claude died and Anna survived him. My mother kept in touch with Anna sending cheques with a Christmas card but that stopped when suddenly she died of a heart attack. Gino disappeared and it was only then that we realised we did not even know Anna's surname. All we knew that Gino was now orphaned and had an unnamed aunt somewhere in a village near Salerno in Italy.
Decades passed and In 2000 I asked a journalist friend to help me track Lewis Lyons down. I had no idea where he lived in the world. Rob Casey traced him to London and so I invited Gino to Brighton. He worked as a journalist and lived in north London no longer possessing 'Trees and monkeys.' His creativity was just a flash in the pan!
Written in Cafe Costa, Golders Green, London 14.8.17.
To be read in conjunction with 'Trees and monkeys.' #1 and 'Fagin.'
Claude Lyons company
Lewis Lyons journalist
Royal Academy Summer Exhibition