Stanley Clifford-Smith was a latecomer to the artist community in Great Bardfield, Essex moving to the village with his family in 1952. His experimental style set him apart from the other artists in the Great Bardfield community.
Clifford-Smith and his second wife Joan Glass set up home in Bucks House, a prominent building they rented at the centre of the village. Bucks House was built Circa 1510, altered c.1600 and in the 19th Century. The ancient building is timber framed its exterior faced with red brick. Bucks House now operates as a welcoming B & B which can be accessed at www.bucks-house.com
Bucks House, Great Bardfield.
Clifford-Smith, the son of a photographer, was born in Reddish, Stockport, Cheshire in 1906 and was educated in Manchester and Paris. The artist disliked his forename and signed his work under the name ‘S. Clifford-Smith’.
In the 1930s he was involved in the carpet trade working firstly as a salesman and later as a designer for James Templeton & Co in Scotland. It was at this time that he first began to paint.
During the Second World War, Clifford-Smith was a member of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.
Clifford-Smith first married Susan Taylor in 1932 and the couple had a daughter. The relationship was not to last the pressures of the Great Depression and the couple soon separated.
After leaving the armed forces, he married the English artist Joan Glass (1915-2000) in 1946 having met during the war. The couple left London for Suffolk in 1947. While in East Anglia he painted mainly religious works much influenced by the French expressionist, Georges Rouault.
Joan Glass: ‘Reflected Gardener’ 1947 mixed media.
Clifford-Smith and Joan Glass pictured at Bucks House.
In his new home Clifford-Smith was an active member of the Great Bardfield art community during the mid to late 1950s and later became the Honorary Secretary of the group. It was Stanley Clifford-Smith who was a prime-mover setting up the open-house days in 1954, 1955 and 1958, exhibiting with the other artists of the village. They would turn their houses into art galleries and thousands of people came into their homes to view the work. The Bardfield artists then included: John Aldridge, Edward Bawden, George Chapman, Stanley Clifford-Smith, Audrey Cruddas, Joan Glass, Walter Hoyle, Sheila Robinson, Michael Rothenstein, textile designer Marianne Straub and cartoonist David Low. These shows attracted thousands of visitors and made the art community famous thanks to national press coverage and several one-off and touring shows in the late 1950s.
A 1955 press photo showing Clifford and Joan with Edward Bawden, John Aldridge, Michael Rothenstein and Audrey Cruddas outside Mariann Straub’s Trinity Cottage in Great Bardfield.
Clifford-Smith’s work in the 1950s was both diverse and experimental, he painted Irish and Italian landscapes, images of ships, as well as hypnotic ‘mother and child’ portraits. In 1958 Clifford-Smith and Joan bought the Old Bakehouse in Great Bardfield opposite the Bawden’s Brick House. In the early 1960s the Great Bardfield art community fragmented, John Aldridge at Place House was the only artist to stay until his death in 1983.
A then, young Richard Bawden recalls: ‘I remember going across the road from our home in Brick House to Clifford and Joan’s in the Old Bakery. Clifford had several large paintings on show with almost life size standing figures; these were in blue-grey and warm grey with a misty atmosphere and a pale yellow sun shining through the haze. I was impressed.’
Stanley Clifford-Smith: ‘Neighbours’ 1956, ‘Pembrokeshire’ 1958. ‘Two Men in a Boat’ undated. ‘Spanish Trawlers off the Fastnet’ 1959.
Clifford-Smith and his family moved to Little Baddow Hall near Chelmsford. During his time at Little Baddow he painted mainly thickly textured monochrome moon portraits.
‘Women Bewitched by the Moon’ c.1965.
Following his death in 1968, the artist had several important exhibitions of his work; a retrospective at The Minories, Colchester 1969, Little Baddow Hall Arts Centre 1979 and at the Fry Art Gallery, Saffron Walden 1998. He was survived by his widow and five children from his two marriages.
Clifford-Smith and Edward Bawden stood on the steps of Brick House.
Graham Bennison July 2021. Graham Bennison | Facebook