Visionary artist Donald Pass was born in Cheshire, England in 1930.
From an early age he began painting landscapes of his native countryside. At school, his talent in art was recognized
and he won a drawing prize for a sketch of an angel with a lion's face he had seen beside roadside hedges.
At seventeen, he enrolled at the Stoke-on-Trent Regional College of Art and then continued his studies at the Royal Academy Schools in London.
He painted portraits, still lives, and landscapes with a high level of realism but as a devotee of John Constable and Samuel Palmer,
his work centered on landscapes. As he said, "landscape was the very heart of it; my heart was in the landscape."
Around 1956, Donald Pass turned to painting lyrical abstract landscapes, which won warm praise from critics like Lord Alistair Gordon.
He established a gallery in Chester, and rose in success as his works were selected for the Inaugural Show of the Drian Galleries in
London, and for the Premio Lissone International Exhibition in Italy. In the late 1960s, he began producing religious paintings of the
Crucifixion, the Creation, and the Madonna and Child. They met with similar success to his abstract landscapes: a Crucifixion was acquired for permanent display in the Museum of Modern Art in Skopje, Macedonia; a Nativity scene was praised in a New York exhibition; and a Madonna acquired by Elmley Castle. By 1969, Donald Pass was
living in Chelsea as a successful painter exhibiting in London and internationally.
In 1964, the artist met a young man at Crewe railway station who foretold his future and
then vanished. In 1969, signs appeared of a significant event to come. One morning at his Chelsea home, he saw a beautiful face of gold appeared
at the window and expanded to encompass the room. Later that year, he traveled with his sketchbook to a church at Cuckfield in Sussex, which raised on a hill, afforded
a view of surrounding fields stretching to the horizon. While he gazed at a grave of a young RAF pilot, he saw the Vision of the Resurrection.
After this, "everything looked different, it had all changed somehow." He could no longer find meaning in naturalistic or abstract painting and unable to make sense of his experience, Donald Pass produced little work in the following several years besides three large drawings of the Resurrection. He left the art world and took up teaching posts, and when times were hard, he and his wife moved to Oxford. In 1984, Sir John Rothenstein, the late Director of the Tate Gallery, saw the three large drawings of the Resurrection hanging on the wall of his daughter's apartment in Oxford. He jumped up and down in excitement Donald Pass remembers. Deeply impressed by the work, he urged Donald Pass to do a great deal more and begin his work on the Resurrection in earnest.
Following his advice, Donald Pass did produce and continues to produce works based on the Resurrection. The earlier works are large black and white drawings; he later utilized watercolours, and now uses a mix media of watercolour, gouache, coloured inks, and conté crayons. He hopes that "my work is a mirror of the Resurrection that I saw. One becomes very conscious of greater powers beyond us; I was very conscious of them in the Vision. All I saw was a heavenly garment really, and the greater things beyond us we probably never will see." He intends his work on the Resurrection to be an expression of life and hope, not death, as he believes that the Resurrection shows that life will continue, that death is a transformation within life. He believes that "we are all one of the great many beings who will eventually rise from the dead and be a part of this great scene. We are important and small in relation to this. I believe that every one being, that every creature on Earth, is held in compassion by God, and I believe God is the centre of compassion. This is the one thing that came through all this: the one thing I felt all the way through this is this overwhelming sense of compassion."
After a long illness, Donald Pass passed away on the 3rd of December, 2010 with his wife, Jacqueline,and friend, Pamela by his side.
Pete Townshend on Donald Pass
"Donald Pass has been an inspiration to me. He is an artist who had a vision that caused an artistic epiphany. Donald’s function as an artist changed. He has witnessed the evidence of an ethereal world. This gives me courage to follow my own visions which are usually musical of course. Musicians commonly hear things that they can’t explain, and they may spend their entire lives trying to make such music tangible. So it isn’t just Donald’s paintings that matter – and they do matter because they are often so beautiful and sometimes so frightening – but also his acceptance as an artist that what happens to us changes us, and redirects us. Life happens. It isn’t always necessary to fight it. Donald had a vision and accepted the consequences. He didn’t pretend to be normal, nor did he pretend that what he had seen had never happened. His wife completely accepted the event too, and this I believe is what helped Donald to remain sane. The two of them seem to accept this almost apocalyptic transformation from a normal painter to one of an artist of mystical function. They accepted Donald’s transmogrification with the every day equanimity of the two grounded people they are. It gives me faith that the acceptance of unsolicited faith through artistic function can –apparently – come with so few fundamentalist strings attached. We are tempted in this absurd day and age to deny absolutely all that is metaphysical, spiritual or mystical. Donald and his wife and circle demonstrate that such absolutes are probably unnecessary."
The Artist's Curriculum Vitae
A Sonnet by Donald Pass, June 1965
Drops of light mutter through gates of gold.
A single rose walks solitary asleep
Red shivers of my heart thrust out and hold
An angel, sent by God to keep.
Birds, trees, and hedges hold
Each other in a green embrace
And dance and twist down white country lanes,
Wild circles make around my angel of grace.
With purple face the mountain sleeps
White walls of the church wear garments of slate
But now the light shouts onward through the gate
Deep avenues of tombs pronounce the fate
Of souls no longer in despair
The angel with the lion's face in standing there!