On Oct. 24, 2015, artist Mark Whitcombe, a longtime resident of City Island, passed away peacefully surrounded by his
loved ones. Mark and his twin brother, Joseph Whitcombe, were born on Sept. 8, 1942, in Sydney, Australia, to June
and Clive Whitcombe. June’s family was in show business; Clive was a drummer and leader of the Clive Whitcombe Jazz
Mark’s childhood in Sydney was by turns both idyllic and very difficult. His family was plagued by poverty and addiction, and home life was often tumultuous. However, his memories of the city itself, the pleasant weather, the culture and its serene natural beauty haunted him with
longing his entire life. As a jazz musician, Mark’s father
was determined to immigrate to America, the home of jazz, and to leave his mark there. Because the family could not afford to bring everyone at once, in 1949 Clive left both Joe and Mark in an orphanage in Australia’s outback while he, June and daughter Judy went ahead to America. This
three-year absence tortured Mark for the rest of his life, and he mentioned his time in the outback almost daily. (Indeed, the abuse of children at these orphanages has
made front page headline news in Australia and has become a national scandal.)
In 1953 Mark and his brother were sent for by his family and reunited in New York, where Mark attended Music and Art High
School and then the Art Students League, the New School and Cooper Union. For most of his life and career, Mark worked from his home on City Island. Elisabeth, his wife and inspiration, has always been deeply involved in and dedicated to his career. She appears in and has inspired
many of his works.
Mark’s heart and soul were captured on canvas and etching plate, and his lifelong dedication to art was a passionate devotion. His work has been exhibited for years at The Opening Gallery in SoHo, The Smith Gallery, Ideas and Images Gallery, Starving Artist Gallery, Hole in the Wall Gallery
and Focal Point Gallery. Mark was also a regular contributor to The Island Current for many years, from his first cover in December 1974 to his last, in November 1993. Mark is best known for his nautical works, which are often surrealistic, as both paintings and etchings. His etching work alone numbers close to 2,000 different plates and are in numerous private and public collections.He won many awards, including first prize in graphics at the Salmagundi Club in 1978, and his work has appeared in many publications, including
Nautical Quarterly, Wooden Boat Magazine, Sailing Life and Playboy Magazine. Mark’s cubist painting “The Musicians” is
in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.
Notable collectors of Mark’s work include Ethel Kennedy, Walter Mondale, Patrick Kennedy, the musician Rod Stewart,
the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Library of Congress, Arizona State University Art Museum, the World Federation
of United Nations Associations, Citibank, Nautica Brand and the Hollywood directors Peter Bogdanovich and Mike Nichols.
Mark is survived by his wife; his daughter; his grandson and his younger sister, whom he loved dearly.
Mark Whitcombe’s artistry is the product of a very practiced imagination and dedication to detail. His imagination was
fueled by a passionate and life-long love of astronomy, sailing and poetry
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