Tom Fairs by Bobbie Oliver

BOMB 120 Summer 2012
Issue 120 Bombsite Cover120 548

Discover MFA Programs in Art and Writing

Tom Fairs 01

Tom Fairs, Untitled, 2000, pencil on paper, 8¾ x 6”. Images courtesy of the estate of Tom Fairs and Kerry Shuss, New York City.

Tom Fairs (1925–2007), a lifelong resident of London, left school at age 15 to become a messenger boy. After winning several prizes for drawing, he went on to graduate from Horsey College of Art and the Royal College of Art. Married to the writer Elizabeth Russell Taylor, he taught fine art and stage design at the Central School of Art and Design from 1954 to 1987. Upon retiring, he devoted himself entirely to his art, painting, and drawing every day. Much of his imagery was found in and around Hampstead Heath, where he drew daily in his sketchbooks. His artistic hero and mentor was Pierre Bonnard, whose delight in the ordinariness of daily life and its elevation to art was a shared passion. Like Bonnard, Fairs was a humble, unpretentious man, indifferent to the notion of career, for whom art, as he wrote in a statement in 2003, was a chance to have a “brief glimpse of the implicit order that lies beneath what we perceive as reality.”


—Bobbie Oliver, painter.

Tom Fairs 02

Tom Fairs, Untitled, 2002, pencil on paper, 5 ½ x 4 ½”.

Tom Fairs 03

Tom Fairs, Detail from Untitled , 2002, pencil on paper, 6 ¾ x 4 ¼”.

Tom Fairs 04

Tom Fairs, Roofs Hampstead, 2000, pencil on paper, 8 × 5.88”.

Tom Fairs 05

Tom Fairs, Untitled, 2004, pencil on paper, 5 ½ x 4 ¼ inches.

Tom Fairs 06

Tom Fairs, Untitled, 2002, pencil on paper, 5 ½ x 4.13”.

Rosa Barba by Joan Jonas
Rosa Barbara 01
The Cats of Mirikitani by Nell McClister
​Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani 04

Even more extraordinary than the putative subject of Linda Hattendorf’s debut documentary, an elderly homeless artist, is the fact that Hattendorf started aiming her camera at him long before September 11, 2001. 

Untitled Drawing by Katherine Bowling
Article 1728 46  Bowling
Newfoundland Drawing by Ree Morton
Article 1696 45  Morton  Toc

Originally published in

BOMB 120, Summer 2012

Featuring interviews with Danny Lyon, Tom Murphy, Cass McCombs and Ariel Pink, Brian Evenson, John Newman and B. Wurtz, Ralph Lemon, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, and Wayne Koestenbaum.

Read the issue
Issue 120 Bombsite Cover120 548