James Egan, the Ballarat artist whose work has been given to royalty as wedding presents and whose paintings have adorned major galleries around the world, has died aged 88.
Egan, who had been battling cancer for two years, had his last wish granted when he died at his Addington home on Friday surrounded by his artwork, his partner of 32 years, Lolita, and his two beloved dogs.
Despite being gravely ill, Egan was still prolific with his artistic genius, wanting to leave hospital to dabble with his paints in his gallery only a week before he died.
Partner Lolita said she was pleased Egan’s last wish to die at home was granted on Friday.
“He wanted to see his paintings one last time. I wheeled him inside, brought the two dogs in to see him, gave him a kiss and told him he was home. Ten minutes later he died peacefully,” Lolita said.
She said despite never officially marrying, Egan was “my sweetheart, my best friend and my husband”.
Egan truly came from the school of hard knocks in Melbourne, working as a boxer from the age of 14 to 19, before meeting an English artist, who taught him how to draw and about art in general.
Inspiration for his works were many and varied, including the Australian outback, from third world countries and from poverty stricken areas in Spain, England and the United States.
A piece of his artwork was given to Prince Charles and Princess Diana as a wedding gift, while other paintings have hung on the walls of Buckingham Palace, the White House, the World Trade Centre and the Russian Parliament.
In 1986, the Victorian Government recognised Egan’s contribution to art by naming him a Living Treasure in Perpetuity.
Good friend Tony Ryan said Egan would not only be remembered for his art, but for also telling a good yarn.
“One of the best stories he told was when he was young and just starting out (as an artist), he would sit on the beaches of Melbourne and paint people’s portraits for a pound. He would then cross the road and spend that money on beers,” Mr Ryan said.
Egan is survived by Lolita, their daughter Jasmin and grandchildren Eileen Susan Gabrielle and Anton.
Funeral arrangements for the much loved artist will appear in The Courier at a later date.