'The painter Peter Saunders, who has died of cancer aged 70, presented in his work a complex local history of the last 50 years in and around London. His subjects – always painted in series – included skateboarders at the South Bank, Borough market, the bleak landscape of Dungeness, Kent, Thames-side scenes at Deptford, the open spaces and skies of Blackheath through the day and night, Brick Lane paper sellers and the Whitechapel Bell Foundry...
It is in his last works that Peter's breakthrough really came. His work started to explore in great depth the human figures in motion he saw around him: dancing at the Rivoli Ballroom in Brockley and then at the tea dances at the Royal Opera House...His most recent exhibition, Dancing at the Rivoli Ballroom (Some Enchanted Evening), for Isle of Thanet Arts, in 2004, was introduced by a comment in the catalogue by the painter Frank Auerbach: "You are as ever taking on brave and exciting subjects that others only dream of." At the end of his life, Peter felt he had finally achieved his essential, personal vision.
Peter was one of five children, born into a working-class London family evacuated during the second world war to Bicester in Oxfordshire. Returning as a young child to south London he drew and drew (paints were in short supply in the 1940s) rather than spend time playing with other children. Later, at Camberwell School of Art, he learned to pursue the tough discipline of drawing in the manner of William Coldstream from mentors such as Euan Uglow'.
Images: above, 'Some Enchanted Evening' [detail], depicting the Rivoli; below, 'Skateboarding, South Bank' from 1980 (depicting a space still used for the same purpose 30 years later). I would love to see some of his other South London paintings if you come across them.