My reflections on the great June Furlong, Queen of the Liverpool Art School, who passed away in 2020.June (1930-2020) was my friend and had a very long career as an artist’s model. I met her at Liverpool College of Art; before that she worked at Slade School in London. She was a wonderful and very beautiful model, whom everybody loved to draw and paint. She took her career very seriously but retained a vibrant personality and a great sense of humour. Hardly surprising since she was born at 58 Falkner Street, just around the corner from the art school (she featured in David Olusoga’s marvellous TV documentary A House Through Time, about number 62).
As a student, our wonderfully quiet life drawing classes focused pure concentration… unless John Lennon was in the room. As I've recounted in countless biographies, life drawing was endlessly interrupted by John’s total inability to take his work remotely seriously. Perhaps he had ADHD. The entire room would descend into riotous, near-tearful hysteria at John’s antics. These typically involved John leaping all over the room and doing his utmost to distract June, who would be trying to stay poker-faced, despite the urge to giggle.
In my video (below) you can see my sketch of John in 1959, where both of us are pretending to draw June.... very post-modern! I am often asked if John ever did any actual painting. It’s fair to say he did his own thing in the Life Drawing class. He would either ignore June completely, drawing instead his own grotesque monsters, or he would narrow his focus, with his artistic attention entirely on June’s wristwatch, or her slippers on the floor. While June would deal with John later on, during break time, our tutor, Teddy Griffiths took the wild behavior in his stride and never uttered a sound, puffing away on his pipe in the corner (as you can see in another of my sketches from the time). I am not sure whether he considered this "performance art” or was simply scared of having his nose punched by John.
After she retired from modeling, June started promoting exhibitions by her close artist friends. She had a profound appreciation of art and artists and was a proper bohemian. During the autumn and summer terms she would have a gorgeous all-over tan from sunbathing in Spain. Among our tutors, her favourite was George Jardine, who painted exquisite, dreamlike surrealistic works. They were soul mates until he left us several years ago. She missed him terribly.
June and I remained close friends. Whenever we hadn’t seen each other for a while, she would write me rambling letters (a bit like mine!). And when I needed a memory dose of the good old days (pre-Instagram and pre-internet), I could always count on a catch-up featuring detailed reminiscences from June, lasting at least two hours. She was utterly hilarious and never stopped talking, except when modelling.
June is missed by many, many people, including me, who loved her dearly. She was a strong character and a great wit. RIP dear June, you were a total star.