Sir Noel Coward (1899 - 1973)
Oil on canvas board
Signed lower left
Inscribed "Nassau" verso
Sight Size: 9.25 x 13.25 in. (23.5 x 33.65 cm.)
Framed: 14.75 x 18.75 in. (37.5 x 47.63 cm.)
SIR NOEL COWARD (1899-1973) was one of the most prominent and versatile creative talents of the twentieth century, authoring over fifty plays (many of which he starred in) and having a hand in writing, directing, and acting in more than twenty-five films, as well as composing hundreds of songs and producing numerous short stories, poems, musical revues, a novel, and a three-volume autobiography. Later in life, he added painting to his repertoire of artistic endeavors, transforming what was initially a recreational pastime for purposes of relaxation into an accomplished sideline activity meriting serious consideration. Though most of his paintings - which generally took the form of landscapes and seascapes - were executed in his adopted homes of Jamaica and Switzerland and his native British Isles, the historical record reveals a few rarely viewed efforts from other Caribbean locales, including the painting Nassau, the single extant oil known to have been produced in the Bahamas. Coward’s talents were so prodigious and diverse that he earned the nickname The Master; indeed, his longtime friend Lord Louis Mountbatten, paying tribute to him on his seventieth birthday, was moved to say: “There are probably greater painters than Noel, greater novelists than Noel, greater librettists, greater composers of music, greater singers, greater dancers, greater comedians, greater tragedians, greater stage producers, greater film directors, greater cabaret artists, greater TV stars. If there are, they are fourteen different people. Only one man combined all fourteen different labels - The Master.”
Born into humble beginnings in Teddington-Middlesex, a southwestern suburb of London, Coward made his first stage appearance in a children’s play at the age of eleven. Following this, he made numerous appearances in various productions in London’s famed West End theatre district, including a major role in Peter Pan in 1913, and continued to perform throughout the First World War, from which he was adjudged to be unfit for active duty due to a “tuburcular tendency.” It was during this period that he began writing plays, starting with The Rat Trap in 1918 and then I’ll Leave It To You, the latter being his first full-length play, opening at London’s New Theatre in 1920 (renamed the Noel Coward Theatre in 2006). His first real success came with The Young Idea in 1923, but it was the following year that saw him achieve great critical acclaim and financial rewards with the opening of The Vortex, which in its day was considered shocking for its depiction of sexuality and drug-addiction amongst the upper-classes (though some critics believed the drug theme to be a thinly-veiled stand-in for homosexuality, subject-matter that would never have been approved by the period’s censorship authorities). In 1925 he premiered Hay Fever, the first of his plays to gain a place in the mainstream theatre repertoire, and still considered a comic classic. By June of that year Coward had four shows running simultaneously in the West End: The Vortex, Fallen Angels, Hay Fever, and On With the Dance. He soon was to become one of the world’s highest-earning writers, with an annual income in 1929 of 50,000 pounds, more than 2,000,000 pounds in 2007 values. Coward thrived during the Great Depression, churning out a succession of popular hits, ranging from large-scale spectaculars to intimate comedies. Examples of the former were the operetta Bitter Sweet (1929) and the historical extravaganza Cavalcade (1931), with the latter’s film adaptation winning the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1933. His intimate-scale hits of the period included Private Lives (1930) and Design for Living (1932). Private Lives, a comedy about a divorced couple who, while honeymooning with their new spouses, discover that they are staying in adjacent rooms at the same hotel, was a major highlight of Coward’s career, initially selling out in both London and New York and revived (and filmed) many times over the years. In 1938 he wrote Tonight at 8:30, a cycle of ten short plays presented in various permutations across three evenings; one of these plays, Still Life, was expanded into the 1945 David Lean-directed film (with screenplay by Coward) Brief Encounter, which was nominated for an Academy Award and to this day maintains its reputation as one of the most beloved screen romances of all time. With the outbreak of the Second World War, Coward abandoned the theatre and sought official war work. He initially worked on behalf of British Intelligence, running the British propaganda office in Paris, then headed to the U.S., where he was tasked with trying to use his celebrity to influence American public and political opinion in favor of helping Britain. Eventually his longstanding friend Sir Winston Churchill, then Britain’s Prime Minister, suggested to him that he could do more for the war effort by entertaining the troops and the home front than by intelligence work: “Go and sing to them while the guns are firing - that’s your job!” Churchill commanded him. Coward, though disappointed, complied, and proceeded to indefatigably tour, act, and sing across Europe, Africa, Asia, and America. Another of Coward’s wartime projects - which he wrote, had a starring role in, and co-directed with Lean (the first of several collaborations with the noted filmmaker Lean) - was the naval drama In Which We Serve. The movie was popular on both sides of the Atlantic, and Coward, who played a naval captain in the film (basing the character on his friend Lord Louis Mountbatten), went on to receive an honorary Academy Award in 1943. But Coward’s most enduring work from the war years was the hugely successful 1941 comedy Blithe Spirit, a play about a novelist who researches the occult and hires a medium, who in turn brings back the ghost of his first wife during a seance, causing havoc for the novelist and his second wife. With 1,997 consecutive performances, it broke box-office records for the run of a West End comedy, and was also produced on Broadway, where its original run was 650 performances. (The play was adapted into a 1945 film, again written by Coward and directed by Lean.) Coward toured during 1942 in Blithe Spirit,alternating the piece with his comedy Present Laughter and his working-class drama This Happy Breed. In the war’s aftermath, Coward wrote an alternative reality play, Peace in our Time, depicting an England occupied by Nazi Germany. Other new plays following the war were Relative Values (1951), South Sea Bubble (1951), Quadrille (1952), and 1956’s Nude with Violin (a satire on modern art and critical pretension); though moderately successful (in particular, the 1945 revue Sigh No More), none of these post-war efforts matched the popularity of his pre-war hits. Two musicals, Pacific 1860 (1946) and Ace of Clubs (1949) were financial failures. Further blows during this period were the deaths of his close friend Charles Cochran and his close confidante, the actress Gertrude Lawrence (for whom he wrote, and starred alongside in, Private Lives). But Coward continued to maintain a high public profile; his performance as King Magnus in George Bernard Shaw’s The Apple Cart during the Coronation season of 1953 received much coverage in the press, and his cabaret act, honed during his wartime tours entertaining the troops, was a supreme success, first in London at the Cafe de Paris, and later in Las Vegas. In 1955, his cabaret act in Las Vegas was recorded live and released asNoel Coward at Las Vegas, its success earning him a deal with the CBS television network to write and direct a series of three 90-minute specials for the 1955-56 television season. The first of these, Together with Music, paired Coward with Mary Martin, followed by productions of Blithe Spirit, in which he starred with Claudette Colbert, Lauren Bacall, and Mildred Natwick, and This Happy Breed, with Edna Best and Roger Moore. Despite excellent reviews, the audience viewing numbers were moderate. During the fifties and sixties Coward continue to write musicals and plays. After the Ball, his 1953 adaptation of Lady Windermere’s Fan, was the final musical he premiered in the West End; his last two musicals were first produced on Broadway: Sail Away (1961), set on a luxury cruise liner, was his most successful post-war musical, with productions in America, Britain, and Australia. The Girl Who Came to Supper (1963), a musical adaptation of The Sleeping Prince, ran for only three months. In 1964 he directed the successful Broadway musical adaptation of Blithe Spirit, called High Spirits. His late plays include a farce, Look after Lulu (1959), and a tragi-comic study of old-age, Waiting in the Wings (1960), both of which were successful despite critical disdain. Coward argued that the primary purpose of a play was to entertain, and he made no attempt at modernism, which he felt was boring to the audience though fascinating to the critics. He is quoted as having said that “the theatre is a wonderful place, a house of strange enchantment, a temple of illusion. What it most emphatically is not and never will be is a scruffy, ill-lit, fumed-oak drill hall serving as a temporary soapbox for political propaganda.” Moving away from the theatre, he wrote a comic novel in 1960, Pomp and Circumstance, about life in a tropical British colony, which did indeed meet with critical success. His final stage triumph came with Suite in Three Keys(1966), a trilogy set in a penthouse suite. He wrote it as his swan song as a stage actor. It gained glowing reviews and did good box-office business in the U.K. In one of the three plays, A Song at Twilight, Coward abandoned his customary wariness about publicly broaching the subject-matter of homosexuality (in real-life he well-known to be gay) and played an explicitly gay character, which earned him much critical praise. During this period he won new popularity as an actor in films, including Around the World in Eighty Days (1956), Our Man in Havana (1959), Bunny Lake is Missing (1965), Boom! (1968), and The Italian Job (1969). Notably, he turned down the role as the title character in the 1962 James Bond movie, Dr. No, as well as the role of Humbert Humbert in the film adaptation of Nabokov’s novel Lolita. (Saying of the latter: “In my time of life the film story would be logical if the 12-year-old heroine was a sweet little old lady.”) In the mid-1960s and early 1970s successful productions of his 1920s and 1930s plays, and new revues celebrating his music, including Oh, Coward on Broadway and Cowardly Custard in London, revived his popularity and critical reputation. He dubbed the comeback “Dad’s Renaissance.” It was initiated with a hit 1963 revival of Private Lives in London and New York. Invited to direct Hay Fever at the National Theatre, he wrote in 1964, “I am thrilled and flattered and frankly a little flabbergasted that the National Theatre should have the curious perceptiveness to choose a very early play of mine and to give it a cast that could play the Albanian telephone directory.” Other examples of “Dad’s Renaissance” include a 1968 Off-Broadway production of Private Lives starring Elaine Stritch and directed by Charles Nelson Reilly. Despite the impressive cast, Coward’s popularity had again risen so high that the theatre poster designed for the production used an Al Hirschfeld caricature of Coward instead of an image of the production or its stars, baring witness to just how much Coward’s image had changed by the sixties: he was no longer seen as the smooth 1930s sophisticate, wearing dressing gowns on stage and smoking cigarettes through a long cigarette holder. (Time magazine once wrote that “(his) greatest single gift has not been writing or composing, but projecting a sense of cheek and chic, pose and poise.”) Now he was regarded as the doyen of the theatre, with the New Statesman writing in 1964: “Who would have thought the landmarks of the sixties would include the emergence of Noel Coward as the grand old man of British drama? There he was one morning, flipping verbal tiddlywinks with reporters about “Dad’s Renaissance;” the next he was . . . beside Forster, T.S. Eliot, and the OMs, demonstrably the greatest living English playwright.” By the time of his death, The Times was writing of him: “None of the great figures of the English theatre has been more versatile than he,” and the paper ranked his plays in “the classical tradition of Congreve, Sheridan, Wilde, and Shaw.”
Noel Coward died of a heart attack in 1973 at his Jamaican mountaintop home “Firefly.” In the final years of his life several substantial honors were bestowed upon him, including a knighthood in 1969 and, that same year, a Fellowship in the Royal Society of Literature. In 1972, he received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by the University of Sussex and a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement. A memorial service was held for him in St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London on 29 May 1973, for which the Poet Laureate, John Betjeman, wrote and delivered a poem in his honor, John Gielgud and Sir Laurence Olivier read verse and Yehudi Menuhin played Bach. On 28 March 1984 a memorial stone was unveiled by the Queen Mother in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey. Thanked by Coward’s lifetime partner, actor Graham Payn, the Queen Mother replied, “I came because he was my friend.” In 1998 the Queen Mother also unveiled a statue of Coward by Angela Conner in the foyer of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and there are sculptures of Coward displayed in New York and Jamaica, as well as a bust of him in the library at Teddington, near where he was born. A symposium published in 1999 to mark the centenary of Coward’s birth listed some of his major productions scheduled for that year in Britain and North America, including Ace of Clubs, After the Ball, Blithe Spirit, Cavalcade, Easy Virtue, Hay Fever, Present Laughter, Private Lives, Sail Away, A Song at Twilight, The Young Idea, and Waiting in the Wings, with stars including Lauren Bacall, Rosemary Harris, Ian McKellen, Corin Redgrave, Vanessa Redgrave, and Elaine Stritch. In another tribute, Tim Rice said of Coward’s songs: “The wit and wisdom of Noel Coward’s lyrics will be as lively and contemporary in 100 years’ time as they are today,” and many of his songs have been recorded by luminaries such as Elton John, Sir Paul McCartney, and Sting. The Noel Coward Theatre in St. Martin’s Lane, originally opened in 1903 as the New Theatre and later called the Albery, was renamed in his honor in 2006. In 2008 an exhibition devoted to him was mounted at the National Theatre in London; the exhibition was later hosted by the Museum of Performance and Design in San Francisco and at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California. In March 2012, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center mounted a major exhibit in his honor, titled Star Quality: The World of Noel Coward, which offered a wealth of memorabilia and artifacts in a display that theReuters News Service termed “a primer in 20th-Century arts and letters.”
Unbeknownst to most of his followers during his lifetime, Noel Coward was an accomplished painter, beginning his experiments with brush and easel in the early 1930s, essentially as a mode of relaxation. As his lifelong friend and secretary Cole Lesley recalled, he began by “painting from time to time in watercolours, usually seascapes with ships, in sepia or low-toned keys; rather naive but, as in everything he attempted, with a style all its own.” The watercolours continued throughout the 1930s, usually on those rare weekends when he wasn’t in rehearsal or working on a new score. These early efforts took place at “Goldenhurst,” a 16th century farmhouse located deep in the woods of Kent, England, that served as Coward’s primary residence from the ’30s through the mid-’50s. Many of his friends lived nearby, and many more came to stay, as the Visitor’s Book (now in the Garrick Club in London) attests. They included Sir Laurence Olivier, Somerset Maugham, Gladys Cooper, Sir John Gielgud, Beatrice Lillie, Rebecca West, and Coward's favorite co-star, Gertrude Lawrence. It is here that one of Coward’s first fully mature oils,The Pond at Goldenhurst Farm, Kent, was executed. (As Coward’s paintings were for the most part undated, only approximate creation dates can be ascertained.) One Sunday, he visited Chartwell (also in Kent), the principal home of his friend Sir Winston Churchill (a talented amateur artist in his own right), and received advice from the former wartime prime minister to stop painting in watercolours and to commence working only in oils, advice to which Coward assented (though later he was to develop an allergy to oil-based paint, forcing him to paint using gloves or bags on his hands). “He got off to a flying start,” Cole Lesley remembers, “by using oils exactly as he had used his watercolours, and produced a perfectly lovely landscape in misty pastel tones with a woman in red leading a small dog.” As he became more seriously inclined, Coward decided to seek advice on craftsmanship from friends with knowledge of the subject, including the artist Derek Hill, who helped him to understand the art of priming in order to cover the stark whiteness of the canvas, and the writer/artist Clemence Dane, who recommended that he adopt a painting style of “courage and attack.” The famous fashion designer Edward Molyneux also dispensed insights. Through the late 1940s and well into the ’50s and ’60s, Coward painted whenever possible at his various homes, first at the aforementioned Goldenhurst, and then at “White Cliffs,” his home from 1945-51 on the beach at St. Margaret’s Bay, literally adjacent to the White Cliffs of Dover. While residing at White Cliffs, Coward painted both seascapes and landscapes, heading inland to depict scenes from the countryside, which took form in the oilsGoldenhurst and Dover Castle. He captured the majestic, eternal beauty of the cliffs in a series of oils, with one of them, The Cliffs Above St. Margaret’s Bay, being purchased by the Dover District Council, where it remains on display to this day at the St. Margaret’s Visitors’ Centre. By 1951, the influx of Londoners seeking respite from the city in the Dover area proved to be too much of an imposition on Coward’s privacy, which he always prized, forcing him to sell his beloved White Cliffs to his friend and neighbor Ian Fleming, the creator of the James Bond books. By the mid-part of the decade Coward departed England entirely and moved to the islands of Bermuda and Jamaica, compelled to sacrifice his British citizenship in order to elude the severe tax burden imposed by the post-war government on its highest wage-earners. Though many others in his tax category followed suit, none were excoriated in the press to the extent Coward was; as Tim Hodgson, writing for The Bermudian magazine, put it: “Unwittingly Coward had assumed the mantle of a latter-day Moses,” and led “what developed into a seemingly endless stream of entertainers, writers, sportsmen, and financiers on an exodus into the wilderness of Britain’s few remaining colonies as tax-exiles seeking escape from the iniquitous persecution of London’s Internal Revenue Service.” Coward’s Bermuda residence was Spithead Lodge, an elegant mansion across the harbor from Hamilton that was formerly the home of another famed playwright, Eugene O’Neill. Coward was known to have enjoyed himself in Bermuda, plunging into the mundane chores of housekeeping while he regained his professional stature overseas. The tourists were ever-present, however; “Every morning at about noon a crowded ferryboat passes,” he wrote in his diary, “and the gentleman in charge announces places of interest through a loudspeaker. His voice echoes across the still water, and whenever the boat passes Spithead Lodge, I hear him explaining that whereas the house was originally the home of Eugene O’Neill, the celebrated American playwright, it is now the home of none other than Noel Coward. I don’t really mind this daily publicity, but unfortunately it does encourage the boat’s passengers to spring into taxis the moment they land and to come belting out to stare at me over the walls and take photographs. The other morning I was caught, practically naked, covered in dust and sweat and carrying a frying-pan in one hand and a slop-pail in the other.” Perhaps the lack of privacy was the reason that, after a two-year stay, Coward sold Spithead Lodge and made Jamaica his principal residence, eventually adding a second home above Lake Geneva in Les Avants, Switzerland. It is worthy to note that, as of this writing, no paintings by Coward executed in Bermuda are known to exist; however, considering how much painting Coward was actively undertaking at this point in his life, and further considering the fact that drama critic and Coward biographer Sheridan Morley called the act of painting “the most favorite and time-consuming of all his non-theatrical pastimes,” educated speculation could reasonably posit the notion that, at some point in time, one or more Coward paintings of Bermudian origin are likely to surface in the art marketplace.
Noel Coward first visited Jamaica in 1944, writing one of his many memorable songs, “Uncle Harry,” during his visit. Immediately drawn to the locale, he was determined to return as soon as the opportunity would allow, which arrived when he received word that his friend Ian Fleming’s house, “Goldeneye,” was available for rent. He took the house for six weeks, and made the decision to find a location on the island which he could turn into his winter lodgings, doing just that with his purchase of “Blue Harbour,” an eleven acre estate which overlooked Port Maria eight miles up the coast from Goldeneye. Coward enlarged the main house and added three guest cottages and a swimming pool, going on to host the first generation of jet-setting celebrities, including Sir Laurence Olivier, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Sir Alec Guinness, Katherine Hepburn, Sean Connery, Mary Martin, Patricia Neal and Peter O’Toole. High above Blue Harbour, Coward discovered a site which had once belonged to the buccaneer, Sir Henry Morgan, who used it as a lookout. Coward purchased the site and its sensational views and proceeded to build a simple white stucco house there which he used as a studio and living-quarters while his guests stayed down below at Blue Harbor. He named it “Firefly,” because of the luminous insects omnipresent there every evening at dusk. It was here that Coward matured into an accomplished painter, arguably producing his finest work in this locale. In an effort to create a personally-envisaged atmosphere of the tropics, many of his paintings composed there featured bold and vibrant colors and a masterful use of blue, especially in his skies and bodies of water; these oils were conceptually “not representational,” as Cole Lesley wrote, “but somehow caught the essential spirit and the many moods of that lovely island.” As he came of age as a painter, Coward’s confidence grew to the point where one can see, in certain compositions like Lakeside Promenade and Woman Reading on the Beach, elements of the Impressionists, and, in 1948’s The Stubborn Donkey, a type of Fauvist-style coloration, as well as a more fully developed delineation of the rows of beautiful blue and green Jamaican mountain ranges, as evidenced by such efforts as The View from Firefly; Mountain Road, Jamaica; and Tropical Coastline. Indeed, many of the later paintings employ stylistic touches that reveal an advanced understanding of light and shadow, such as the dappled surface of the water in Unloading the Quay, Jamaica and Portofino, and a vastly enhanced detailing of human facial characteristics, as displayed in The Gardner at Firefly, a type of expressiveness which, in earlier efforts, Coward felt "should be seen from a very long way away and preferably through a telescope.” He even grew bold enough to experiment with difficult motifs such as the “View through a Window” technique, witnessed in Italian Market as well as other Mediterranean oils.
Coward’s artwork was, for the most part, not viewed by the public eye until fifteen years after his death. Certainly there was the occasional painting given away to friends on birthdays or opening-nights, and the rare sighting of a “Coward” in a prominent gallery, but until 1988 no major representation of his work was unveiled. Evidently, at one point in 1955, Coward was preparing for an exhibition of his work (a show which, for unknown reasons, never materialized) and wrote about his feelings on the subject in a diary entry on November 10th of that year, revealing, perhaps inadvertently, his feelings about his artwork in particular, and about the state of the art world in general: “I have painted several small pictures, one or two for Christmas presents. . . . Of course, compared to some of the pretentious muck that is shown month after month in the London galleries, my amateur efforts appear brilliant. They have a sense of color and design and do at least convey a fantasised impression of Jamaica, but as yet I am still at the stage where I break rules without having learned them. There will inevitably be jeers and patronizing sneers from the critics, but this would happen anyway whether or not the pictures were good, bad, or indifferent. At all events, to back out of the exhibition now would be cowardly, and as I go on painting such a lot, something must be done to dispose of the results and some of them are bound to be bought if not from genuine artistic appraisal, at least from celebrity snobbism.” Further commentary on the subject was offered by Coward in the form of a comment made by one of the characters in his 1954 play Nude with Violin: “I don’t think anyone knows about painting anymore,” the character, Sebastien, opined. “Art, like human nature, has gotten out of hand.” Coward also once famously quipped that “Mona Lisa looks as if she has just been sick, or is about to be,” and said of a famous artist, “He was an abstract painter with an abstract talent.” According to Sheridan Morley, Coward was too modest in appraising his own work, and Morley asserts that the reviews of his oils which did indeed reach the open market were not as patronizing or dismissive as Coward had feared, and were purchased for something rather more than mere “celebrity snobbism.” In 1988, Graham Payn decided to sell a cache of thirty-four paintings by Coward that remained in their chalet in Switzerland “so people could see them,” as he explained. He had discussed donating them to museums but was afraid that they would be stored instead of displayed. “It never entered my head to sell them until recently,” he said at the time. “But I thought it was something I had better take care of while I’m still here, as part of my duty to the estate.” The sale took place at Christies London, on February 18,1988, and with Payn’s blessing, Christie’s took a somewhat theatrical approach to the sale, interspersing large black-and-white photographs of Coward along with the paintings, and bringing in a pianist to play Coward tunes. Anticipating heavy interest, the auction house printed 5,000 catalogs, about 2,000 more than for a typical major sale. The paintings offered were mostly vivid Jamaican landscapes, but several views of Italy and the Mediterranean were also included, as well as a rendering of the White Cliffs of Dover. Among the more notable oils offered were The Pond at Goldenhurst Farm; The White Cliffs of Dover; The Cliffs Above St. Margeret’s Bay; Portofino; A Village in the Hills, Jamaica; Tropical Coastline; Coastal Village in Jamaica; People on the Quay, Jamaica; On the Promenade; The Terrace, Firefly; Junction Road, Jamaica; The Sunken Garden, Goldeneye; and Coward’s final painting, Two Nuns, featuring the recurrent motif of two nuns juxtaposed in various settings, most famously in What is She Telling her Beads?, in which the two nuns share a bench with a naked man sunbathing. Commenting on this painting, Will Porter, senior director of Modern Art at Christies, said, “It is risque in a very English, 1930s way,” further adding that “his paintings are great fun . . . they reflect his sense of humor. There are some very witty works and some slightly risque pieces.” With little precedent to work from, Christie’s came to estimate the 34 paintings included in the 1988 sale to be worth 300,000 pounds. At auction they went for 786,000 pounds, approximately $2,800,000 in today’s U.S. currency, with the proceeds directed to the Noel Coward Trust for Theatrical Charities. On March 19, 2015, Christie’s brought to auction another 19 paintings by Coward, this time alongside many paintings he had acquired as gifts from his famous friends. Other than these two major auctions, Coward’s work has been available only through the occasional sale of one or two of his works at noted auction houses or select dealers, and the whereabouts of his entire oeuvre remains largely unknown, as does the total number of paintings, with the remaining ones much sought after; Allen Darwell, the head of the Art Department at Hall’s Auction House, believes that interest in Coward’s work continues to be keen, commenting that “there is a buoyant market for paintings by both Churchill and Coward.” All told, Coward produced work in many different locations, such as England, Ireland, Italy, the United States, the Bahamas (one painting extant), St. Lucia, Switzerland, and, of course, Jamaica, with the intriguing possibility remaining open that the future may reveal work executed in Bermuda.
On March 26, 1973, the very day he died, Coward had been working on a Jamaican landscape. He is buried in the garden near the spot at Firefly where he would sit at dusk watching the sun set, looking out to sea and at the lush green coast spread out beneath him. A statue of him gazing out over the harbor graces the lawn. On one of Firefly’s walls is written his final poem:
When I have fears, as Keats had fears,
Of the moment I’ll cease to be,
I’ll console myself with vanished years,
Remembered laughter, remembered tears,
And the peace of the changing sea.
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