PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE CANADIAN COLLECTION
Eric Downton (1917-1999), born in Dorset, England and educated in the London School of Economics, was a renowned Canadian war correspondent. Downton worked at Reuters in the 1930-40s and then spent 25 years as foreign correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph, with posts in Moscow, Vienna, Jerusalem, Washington, New Delhi, Tokyo, Cairo, Bonn, Nairobi and Beirut. He covered conflicts and resolutions around the world, including military campaigns in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa in the 20th century. Apart from his passion in journalism, Downton collected art and antiquities from his travels around the world.
In 1954, Downton assisted the then Swedish Vice-Consul to Beijing, Mr. B. Sonander, arranging meetings and introducing political contacts. To show his appreciation for Downton, Sonanda commissioned a painting as a gift for him. In his letter to Downton, Sonanda vividly describes his encounter with the artist and his creative act,
"I went to see him a fortnight ago and asked him to paint a lotus flower for you... he smashed out a big plot of black colour which turned out to be the lotus leaf. Then he made the flowers and the stems in the same easy way. It took him about half an hour to fulfil his work. Then he wrote the characters on the picture, which say: for Mr. Downton by 94 years old Chi Pai-Chih. At last there was a big ceremony about sealing the work. He has about 200 different seals all locked up in a cupboard with a big padlock on the door. He took out a few stamps, put one of them on your picture and then locked them up again very carefully."