THE Newcastle art community turned out in their hundreds yesterday to mourn the death of prolific Wickham sculptor Peter Speight.
About 400 people attended Speight’s funeral at Pettigrew’s Chapel in Newcastle with many friends spilling into the courtyard.
Fellow artists, including Archibald Prize finalist Nigel Milsom, paid tribute to Speight.
Milsom and Speight met 20 years ago while studying art in Newcastle and had been close friends ever since.
‘‘I sometimes addressed Pete by an old nickname “the Wickham bear” because of his powerful bone crunching handshake and his all embracing hugs,’’ Milsom said.
‘‘Pete was who he was, a genuine and true gentleman. What you saw and felt from the man was more real and truthful than he probably liked.’’
Speight died on Monday at John Hunter Hospital after suffering an inoperable brain haemorrhage. ‘‘We were just so proud of him,’’ Speight’s sister Lynette Corcoran said yesterday.
She had been moved by the outpouring of grief since her brother’s death.
‘‘The art community has flooded his Facebook page. More than 100 people came through intensive care.’’
‘‘It has been a shock to everybody.’’
Ms Corcoran’s son Matthew, 9, placed Speight’s trademark bushman’s hat with feather on his uncle’s coffin yesterday.
Friend and fellow artist Gregory Bell said: ‘‘He hated so much of the bullshit and smoke and mirrors of the commercial gallery scene.’’
TRIBUTE: Artist Nigel Milsom, second from left, speaks at the funeral. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
BELOVED: The mourners gathered outside the chapel. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
SYMBOL: Peter Speight’s trademark hat on the coffin. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers