Brian Sewell

Yesterday I attended his Memorial Service in St James’s, Piccadilly. Despite its 17th C origins, this always feels like a brand new church inside, with its rebuilding after the War and its clear glass. It certainly has no feel of the 1680’s, apart from the amazing Grinling Gibbons carving around the altar.

Anyway, for some reason it was felt to be the right place to celebrate Brian’s life. There was some lovely music by Bach, Mozart and others and eulogies by an old Christie’s colleague and Sir Max Hastings. Hymns and prayers seemed odd for Brian, who cannot be described as a religious man. The church was full, with many in the balconies.

My own experience of him came late in his life. I was introduced to him by one of my partners who knew him. Brian was thereafter one of the most charming and needlessly helpful people I ever met. He talked on the phone about any art issues I wanted to discuss and he read and commented on the whole of the first draft of Queer Saint. He even wrote a carefully constructed comment for the cover.

Never judge a man until you know him at first hand. Brian had appeared before us all at the time of the public disgrace of the treacherous Anthony Blunt; his public persona had in due course developed in a mildly buffoonish way; in reality he was an extremely generous man to me and, judging by many comments made at the Service, to others as well.