The latest exhibition
at Cockburn Gallery in Maybole is a tribute to the
internationally acclaimed mime artist Marcel Marceau who
died on September 22. A young Gordon Cockburn was
interested in mime and such artistes a Buster Keaton and
Charlie Chaplin as well as Marcel Marceau.
This was in the 1970s
and Gordon got the mime’s phone number and contacted
him. They met in Paris and got on very well together.
Since then Gordon has painted hundreds of portraits of
the Frenchman although he now only has a few left as
they were snapped up by collectors mainly since he
opened his gallery in Maybole a couple of years ago.
When Gordon moved back to Maybole he lost touch with
Marcel as he too moved home and Gordon was told that his
friend had died.
Gordon’s son was on
the Internet one day and found that, in fact, Marcel was
alive and had just returned from Australia. Gordon was
in touch and spoke to him on the telephone. They
arranged to meet in six weeks time so Gordon was
devastated to hear that his friend had died of a heart
attack in his house of Cahors, France at the age of 84 .
He was buried at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Gordon
is a great admirer of Marcel’s work and says that the
display in his gallery is in remembrance of the world’s
“He was a very brave
resistance fighter during World War II,” says Gordon,
“and he saved the lives of many Jewish children.” Gordon
has one regret, that Marcel never saw the Maybole
artist’s exhibition “Auschwitz”. Marcel’s father Charles
was arrested by the Gestapo and died in the Auschwitz
concentration camp in 1944. The present display features
a few paintings of the mime artist dressed as his
creation "Bip" the clown, in his striped pullover and
battered hat. Gordon says that Bip was based on Charles
Dickens’ character Pip in “Great Expectations”.
“I was tremendously
fond of Marcel,” Gordon adds “ and I have letters from
him signed Bip!” “Some years ago he phoned me and told
me to go to Glasgow,” Gordon continues, “and I met Dame
Margot Fonteyn.” He adds, “He was a great influence on
many people, including Michael Jackson.” The singer’s
"moonwalk" dance was inspired by the French mime’s
Walking Against the Wind routine. The Frenchman also
starred in films, was an author, and he was a Goodwill
Ambassador for the United Nations. The French Government
awarded him its highest honour, making him an "Officier
de la Légion d'honneur" which Gordon mentions in his