Mary Kisler

Francis Pound – farewell to a friend

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<p>Francis Pound.</p>

Francis Pound.


I first met Francis Pound in 1980. I knew him first as the partner of my friend Sue Crockford, then as a colleague at Auckland University, and more latterly through Auckland Art Gallery.

Francis loved to talk about art. I remember once when we went round to their house in Picton Street, parts of which my husband David had rebuilt. Slightly manic, Francis entertained us for an hour talking about Yves Klein blue. Without drawing breath, he took an egg and walked out the back door, before cracking it on the concrete for one of their beloved cats to lap up. He had a wonderful sense of the arcane which balanced his erudition.

I last saw Francis three weeks ago in North Shore hospital. He was reclining in bed, his hair immaculate, eyes twinkling and swathed in a multi-coloured fleecy garment. He was reading a new book on Matisse, and looked as if he had stepped out of one of Matisse’s paintings. We spent an hour and a half chatting, going through the book, talking at length on the influence of the Pacific on some of Matisse’s late cut-outs.

Francis spoke of his desire to finish his book on Gordon Walters, a box of letters that he had been studying earlier perched on the edge of his bed. I showed him my photographs of The Corsini Collection exhibition on my phone, and he studied each one in detail, making astute comments on individual works, their frames and the display itself. Conversation turned to Florence, our favourite buildings and preferred artworks. We offered to whisk him through the exhibition in a wheel chair, and when we went on to visit Sue, she immediately said ‘I‘ll come too!’

I shall treasure that memory of Francis. In spite of his frailty, he remained every inch the scholar, his lively mind seeking out new ideas and new responses. His contribution to art history in New Zealand has been a major one, and students everywhere will feel the lacuna created by his passing. The loss to Sue and his daughter Veronica can only be imagined. We will also miss his elegance, his bonhomie and his acerbic wit. Today I’m wearing just a dash of Yves Klein blue.