Thea Dupays

A Profile by John Baxter

Thea Dupays

Interviewing Thea over the telephone as was necessary at this time, it quickly became clear that she is an artist whose life-story could easily fill several books. What you have here then is no more than a brief summary.

Thea is the daughter of an Art Director in films and a mother who graduated from the Slade “but never used it”. When Thea was five World War 2 broke out and she was sent with her teacher and several other children to live in a rather run-down old country house on Exmoor in the hamlet of Exford for the next six years. That would have been too much for many but Thea says she loved it and remembers it as a time of untrammelled freedom roaming the countryside with the other children and from the age of six she was sure she wanted to be an artist.

When the War came to an end she was sent to boarding school which she loathed and from there she felt quite ready at the age of only sixteen to live in lodgings and go to Goldsmiths College to study Art in London. There she completed a four year diploma. and met John Dupays who came from a Jersey family. He had spent the war living under the German Occupation of the island and was then able to attend Cambridge. After his graduation they were married and he was recruited into the Nigerian Civil Service, so in 1954 off they set for Northern Nigeria.

While John organised courts , justice and the building of roads and bridges, Thea loved drawing life in the markets and the villages they visited. There she found the people open, friendly and appreciative of what the British were doing. She also had commissions from Longmans and O.U.P. to illustrate text-books for schools. She describes her time there as fascinating, exciting and artistically rewarding. All of this she enjoyed while also giving birth to her first child Nicola who has also grown up to become an illustrator. Nicola’s health though deteriorated and Thea was again expecting when they were able to leave in 1960. This was just in time for on becoming independent Nigeria descended into a brutal civil war.

Back in England John and a friend then set up a prep school outside Bath. Here Thea had her third daughter and was responsible for looking after seventeen boys who boarded with them. In the end the school did not work out for John and they then went into the hotel business which was demanding work and meant Thea did no art for fourteen years until 1974. She then exhibited in Bath, London and the R.W.A. producing portraits and later landscapes and still life and has been a member of the Bruton Art Society since 1988 when they retired to Bruton.

Working in oil in a strong, distinct figurative style which she thinks has changed little, Thea’s work features warm, rich, colours in simple, bold and memorable compositions. They all communicate a timeless, meditative mood be it a still life, a landscape or a portrait.