The Archive

Jon Lys Turner Archive

In 2011 Jon Lys Turner found himself the unexpected owner of a number of very old dusty boxes, manuscripts, letters, diaries and artworks. He soon realised that this was an archive and an important one left to him by the artists Richard ‘Dicky’ Chopping and Denis Wirth-Miller.

Turner had been taught by Chopping at the Royal College of Art in Kensington, London and remained a close friend for the next 30 years. As Turner sat among the inherited boxes, sifting through the materials he was soon immersed in a story of British Post War art that melded tales of the last of the Bloomsbury Group and the artistic bohemia of the 1950s.

The details were astounding - even the actual dead fly used for the cover of Chopping's James Bond covers had been saved - stuck with a pin within a small cardboard box simply marked 'fly'. Most interesting were the details of Dicky and Denis’s bizarre and long-enduring three-way relationship with Francis Bacon. 

Before his death Chopping had asked Turner to accept the role as his literary executor. Chopping had previously left a collection of articles, objects, photographs, art, diaries and letters when he stayed with Turner in London. He wanted his memoires to be shared and he feared Denis would destroy the materials.

Turner soon realised that he had inherited a commission from his old mentor. Piecing together the components was compelling and soon fell into place; The Visitors’ Book was conceived.

Turner already owned artworks and documents relating to The East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing and has continued to build the archive.

Turner's nineteen year quest to prove the authentication of a Lucian Freud portrait given to him by Wirth-Miller was the subject of the BBC's Fake or Fortune? programme aired in July 2016 and again in 2017.

The Jon Lys Turner Archive is stored in the vaults of a bank and is therefore unfortunately unavailable for viewing although digital records exist of most items.