Peggy Angus, part one.

Peggy Angus by Percy Horton

Margaret MacGregor Angus was born in Chile on the 9th November 1904, in a railway station, the eleventh of thirteen children of a Scottish railway engineer. She spent her first five years in Chile.

The children’s upbringing was entrusted to nanny Nurse Graham who taught them to read and write. Peggy’s parents were, however, involved in the bringing up of the children and most nights would be spent singing to mum Mary’s accompaniment on the piano. Father David taught the children songs by Robert Burns, cementing an extensive musical repertoire and a fierce pride in Peggy’s ancestry.

Peggy’s father resigned his civil engineering post following a dispute with head office and the family returned to Britain taking up residence in Muswell Hill, London.

Aged fifteen Peggy visited the ancient Barnet Horse Fair and befriended a family of Romany travellers. Peggy invited the Romany family home with Nurse Graham crying: “Lor keep us ! Here’s old Peggy’s gypsies again !

At the Royal College of Art Peggy kept ‘Memory Books’ packed with sketches. Here the Romany families of Barnet. A Portrait of the Brinkley Family in Bog lane, Barnet.

The Romany lifestyle had a great influence on Peggy, a keen Girl Guide, who had developed a love of camping, travelling and the simple outdoor life. The Great War brought family tragedy as Peggy’s brother Archie died in battle followed by elder brother Stewart.

Post war, elder daughter Nancy worked for the American Graves Registration Department and with Peggy’s parents in reduced financial circumstances it was Nancy who paid for Peggy to attend North London Collegiate School in Camden Town (founded 1850). The school took pride in its organ that required to be pumped by hand in order to work. Peggy being musical was one of the blowers with her assistant Ishbel Macdonald, daughter of Ramsey Macdonald, the first Labour Prime Minister. Peggy was also a talented pupil of the school sketch club.

Ishbel MacDonald. Portrait of Ishbel MacDonald by Peggy Angus 1924.

At 17 she entered the Royal College of Art, subsequently winning a painting and teaching scholarship to Paris. At the RCA, her contemporaries included sculptors Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, painters Eric Ravilious, Edward Bawden, Percy Horton, Douglas Percy-Bliss and illustrators Barnett Freedman and Enid Marx – a group described by tutor Paul Nash as ‘an outbreak of talent’.

Peggy was one of the youngest of those 1922 Painting School entrants and having lost two brothers she would have been eligible for a charity scholarship if admitted. Principal Rothenstein was not averse to entry straight from school; he had come to see the previous year’s intake, with its high proportion of older students from provincial art colleges, as resistant to the working methods and naturalism he favoured. Nevertheless, feeling Angus was just too young, he upset her by suggesting that she would benefit­ from a year elsewhere before reapplying; but on learning of her straitened family circumstances and fear of losing the scholarship, he relented. Peggy had to rush home to fil­l her quota of work on the family knitting machine in the evenings instead of enjoying the camaraderie of the Student Common Room.

Peggy’s 1923 Memory Book recorded scenes of London Life.

Self Portrait Peggy Angus, late 1920’s. Chelsea Arts Ball 1923.

Peggy struggled in the Painting School, where men outnumbered women by three to one, and in the third term, attracted by the possibilities of illustration, she transferred to the Design School; seen by some as a step down, it was in fact a fortunate move to classes where women predominated and where she would gain the enduring friendship of another young student, Helen Binyon, who had also arrived straight from private school.

In 1925 Peggy submitted illustrations for Treasure Island to publishers Bodley Head but sadly, these were rejected.

Eric Ravilious helped Peggy with block printing, and she eventually excelled at printed pattern design, particularly of tiles and wallpapers.

A trip to Northern France in 1925.

Peggy finished her time at the RCA in 1926, completing a teaching course, this as a matter of duty. Peggy’s father’s death obliged her to seek paid work straight away. On passing with distinction she wept, fearing that teaching would frustrate her development as an artist. She started her first teaching post that year as Head of Art at a school in Nuneaton. Peggy described it as ‘being marooned in the Midlands’, far away from the London art scene.

Later she taught art in Eastbourne but eventually came back to London to teach in Hampstead in the early 1930s.

The MacDonald Family by Peggy Angus 1929/30.

Peggy’s painting of the Ramsay MacDonald family hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London. Ishbel MacDonald became a lifelong friend; they attended political meetings together and trips abroad. Following MacDonald’s second term as Prime Minister in 1929 Peggy was a frequent guest at Downing Street where she could enjoy having a bath! Peggy occasionally stayed at Chequers and enjoyed the subversiveness of drawing cartoons for the Daily Worker while she was there.

Percy Frederick Horton; Self-portrait; The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology;

Peggy maintained her contact with fellow student Percy Horton whose socialist ideals she shared. Horton had been a conscientious objector during WW1 and was imprisoned. Peggy had a disastrous romance with Horton’s brother Ronald but that failed to dent what was to become a lifelong friendship with Percy.

Part 2 will move on to Eastbourne. Many thanks to Nick Gray for proof reading and making welcome adjustments.

Graham Bennison, May 2021. https://www.facebook.com/BennisonArtist/

Eric Ravilious – “Anyone for tennis?”

The panels of this triptych decorated the door of Sir Geoffrey Fry’s Music Room in Portman Court, London. Fry served as private secretary to Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin from 1923 until 1939. The commission followed on from the successful completion of the Morley College murals by Ravilious, Edward Baldwin and Charles Mahoney in 1928 – unveiled by Baldwin in February 1930.

Ravilious based the tennis court on the Manor Gardens at Eastbourne and treated the panels as a continuous composition, with the game’s progress and the players’ gestures linking the three parts. Newspaper photographs of tennis players helped to create the mural figures.  A Tirzah-like figure exits the left-hand panel.

Tennis player torn from a newspaper Sir Geoffrey Fry’s Music Room

Another ‘tennis commission’ came as ER was chosen to create a mural for the Sports Section of the British Pavilion at the International Exhibition of Arts and Crafts in Modern Life, Paris 1937. Painted on large panels at Bank House, Castle Hedingham, where Tirzah and ER moved in 1934, a young RCA student John O’Connor (see below) helped to paint the panels in watercolour, the medium for the display.

Sketches for the Paris mural. A photograph by Norman Parkinson – “Eric Ravilious Preparing his Tennis Model.”

Poster for the 1937 Fair Night view of the Palais de l’air An overview of the Pavilion with the Sports section on the left of the picture

Graham Bennison https://www.facebook.com/BennisonArtist

Eric Ravilious and Friends…….. https://www.facebook.com/groups/488249232182567

https://httpartistichorizons.org/2021/03/23/john-oconnor/

Fred Mizen 1893-1961

Fred Mizen

Fred Mizen was born in Great Samford, Essex in 1893.

It is known that he served his country in World War One where he lost his left eye and a finger from his left hand. On his return he went gardening for people in the village and surrounding area, no doubt unable to continue with the rigours of farm labouring.

Little is known of his early life but it is known that he worked the various farms around the area of Great Bardfield, where he had moved to and lived out his days.  It is said that he had been making corn dollies and other straw works since his childhood, where he had seen them made in the fields by other farm workers.

Edward Bawden. Litho for Life in an English Village, 1949. John Aldridge is on the left with Sergeant Baker, the Landlord Mr Jarrold and Fred Mizen. Fred was gardener for John Aldridge and Edward Bawden. One of Fred’s bell corn dollies hangs over the bar.

A discussion between Muriel Rose and Alex Coker (see footnote) provides valuable information:-

Muriel:  My first sight of a corn dolly was when Tom Hennell cycled into Great Bardfield with a corn dolly strapped to the handlebars of his bike. Working for an exhibition after the war and wanting some corn dollies I learned that there was a sheaf of corn lying in the garden of John Aldridge’s Place House. I mentioned to the gardener Fred that I would take the corn over to a dolly maker in Debden.

Fred replied, “What do you want to go all that way for, I used to make them in the form of bicycles”.

That night I was upstairs when Lucie Aldridge called to me, you must come downstairs at once. There was Fred standing in the hall with his black patch over one eye and his injured left, hand, bent injured hand plaiting up, as neat as possible, a beautiful corn dolly plait and we were all very thrilled. He then showed us exactly how it was done by crisply turning one straw over another.

While Eric Ravilious and Tirzah were living first in Great Bardfield and then Castle Hedingham…Tirzah recalled: “Place House and Brick House both employed a gardener called Fred Mizen, a tall man, attractive because he looked like a pirate as he had a patch over one eye. He had won Edward Bawden’s heart by covering the garden at Brick House with paper windmills to scare away the birds and he was good at amusing Joanna when she sat up the garden in her pram.

Basil (Taylor) had first made his acquaintance in the pub as he was a hearty drinker and at Charlotte’s dance he got very drunk and stated a fierce argument with the communist Mr Thompson, a kindly but boring man with a beard, dressed like Gill in a one-piece smock tied at the waist with a rope and underneath, bare legs and sandals. Charlotte hustled them into the supper room at the side of the hall where they started fighting which she tried to stop, until John Aldridge arrived to assist her and pushed them both outside. Charlotte was feeling very tired and she went home and fainted and so missed the rest of the dance.”

Fred was indeed an extraordinary Corn Dolly maker. He made the giant exhibits of the Lion and Unicorn for the Festival of Britain in London in 1951.  They were seven feet tall and took about six months to build. These pieces really brought him to the public eye. At the time Fred was gardening for John Aldridge, who, with Dick Russell and Hugh Casson (later knighted) were to design parts of the South Bank site.  How the Lion and Unicorn came about is a little unclear, maybe the name was given to Fred or he was asked to make two models of his choice for an unnamed pavilion.

The first photo shows Fred making the Unicorn, the fourth photo is the Lion and Unicorn at the Festival of Britain 1951.

Muriel: At the time of the 1951 exhibition several well-known artists were living in Great Bardfield.  Dick Russell, in charge of the Lion and Unicorn Pavilion had the brilliant idea of getting Fred to make for them a lion and unicorn of about six feet or more in height. They reached the ceiling of his cottage and for the detail he had an HP Sauce bottle and looked very carefully at the Royal Coat of Arms under a magnifying glass and got all the details he required.  He was a little at a loss with the eyes and turned to John Aldridge and John helped by painting the eyes.

Alec: Was his work checked at intervals by an artist or somebody?

Muriel: Nobody, Fred would not have liked anybody else to have much say about it when he was doing it. I do remember one exciting moment when he came down to work in the garden in a great state because that night a mouse had got up in the head of one of them, and was making merry up there. They had to get the mouse out of the cottage door, which was no mean feet.

During this construction, a young Elizabeth Smith, aged 9 at the time, went with her father to deliver flowers to Mrs Mizen and saw them being built.  It is said that Fred knew of a mouse building its’ nest in one of them but he didn’t have the heart to remove it.  We know that a mouse’s nest did appear during the Festival of Britain.  After the Festival had closed the Lion and Unicorn went to Selfridges in Oxford Street where the mice in the basement finally destroyed them.

Fred with girls.

The publicity that resulted from the Festival led to something of a revival in interest in Straw plaiting, all from Fred’s work.  As a result of this publicity, Fenwicks in Bond Street asked Fred to make some corn dollies for their Christmas stock.  He worked hard and delivered his stock by hand.  On being told that a cheque would be sent in due course, he took up the dollies and went into the street, selling them all to shoppers going about their Christmas shopping within half an hour.

Muriel: One of the friends who used to stay often at the Place was writer and poet Robert Graves and Fred and Robert became great friends when Graves visited.

The Malting Maid and Barley Queen heads. The giant straw figures with John Aldridge and Fred Mizen.

Fred’s grandson Philip Mizen has been an invaluable help in this blog and commented: It is my understanding that John Aldridge was responsible for painting the heads of The Malting Maid & The Barley Queen, this would tie in the whole Great Bardfield artists collaborative element.

The ‘collaborative element’ mentioned by Philip concerns the Great Bardfield Summer exhibitions, where art works in the artists own homes led to thousands visiting the remote village during the summer exhibitions of 1954, 1955 and 1958.

Fred’s display for the 1953 Coronation celebrations. Edward Bawden’s drawing of Fred’s corn dollies.

Fred was also prolific in his original work of thatching and one example of this work can be found a mile or so from Great Bardfield on the Saling Road.  It is the old lodge house to the Parkhall Farm Estate.  One chap, whose father was estate manager in the early 50s remembers Fred thatching the roof and teaching him, as a lad, to make corn dollies.

Although a number of Fred’s works are known, only a few remain.  Some of these can be seen at the Museum of Rural Life in Berkshire.  These include an anchor, some 42inches high, horseshoes, pitch forks, scythes and fire irons.  The farm implements are life size.  He also made the Barley Queen and the Malting Maid for the Brewery Society to display, these were both 9 feet tall!

Fred Mizen continued making straw/wheat works until his death on 19th October 1961.  His legacy is the renewed interest in the craft and since then, many people have taken to teaching and writing about it.

In 1928 Muriel Rose set up in the Little Gallery in Ellis Street, London where many women designers working on their own, or with a partner, benefited from being able to exhibit and sell their work in this way. She became the main sales outlet for the block-printed textiles of Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher, and their assistant, Enid Marx. Silverware and cutlery by Catherine Cockerell, printed papers by Tirzah Garwood and the studio pottery of Katherine Pleydell-Bouverie and Norah Braden.In common with many other exclusive outlets for the crafts, the Little Gallery did not survive the Second World War and closed in 1940.

Alec Coker (1912-1986) was an experienced straw dolly maker and writer. Coker devoted his retirement from 1965 until his death in 1986 to spreading knowledge of and teaching the craft of corn dolly making.

Fred Mizen’s Straw Trees

Graham Bennison https://www.facebook.com/BennisonArtist

Please also see the John Aldridge Facebook page……. https://www.facebook.com/JohnAldridgeArtist

Eric Ravilious in Capel-y-Ffin, Wales.

New Year snow. 1938.

Needing to produce work for an Autumn show in New Bond Street in 1939 Eric Ravilious paid a visit to Wales early in 1938.  Ravilious spent several weeks at the Welsh hamlet of Capel-y-Ffin.

In the 1920’s Capel-y-Ffin had been home to two of Britain’s most significant twentieth century artists – Eric Gill and David Jones.

Tirzah commented:’ We arrived in Wales by the late afternoon, the weather was damp, and the mountains strewn with rocks and patches of born dead bracken, the sheep on their sides jutted out, precariously attached to their surface by the force of gravity.’

Tirzah stayed a couple of days before heading back to Castle Hedingham.

In early February Ravilious wrote: ‘It is rather boisterous weather but improving a little. The skies are superb but the hills so massive it is difficult to leave room for them on the paper. Mrs Saunders and all her family are as nice as possible, and they are all so good-looking and so large on the female side – she cooks in the most generous way and I don’t know how to eat these great platefuls of pig’s fry. A pig has been hanging up in the kitchen and today was scientifically cut up like a diagram in a cookery book, and I watched it simply fascinated.  You should have seen them burning off the bristles with a flaming bracken, with the pig on a stretcher. It was like a funeral pyre and the smell was amazing.’

Wet Afternoon. 1938. How it looks today, the chapel of St Mary still prominent.

He was visited by another artist, John Piper, who with his wife Myfanwy took Eric to the pub for a meal before returning to the farm and looking at Piper’s collages of Welsh Chapels.

Llanthony Derelict Cottage, Collage by John Piper.

As the weather improved in early March, Ravilious said: ‘I work simply all day, I’m trying to make up for lost time and bad drawings, with much better results. A painting of a water wheel, homemade by the son of the farmer, is now almost finished and looks rather well, and a bit Chinese; also, there are four geese in the picture, and the time is eight in the morning.’

Waterwheel, 1938. Duke of Hereford’s Knob 1938. Corn Stooks and Farmsteads – Hill Farm, Capel-y- Ffin, Wales 1938.

Six weeks passed by and Tirzah returned to pick up Eric. As a thank you to the Saunders family Eric and Tirzah treated them to a trip to the cinema in Abergavenny. They did the journey back to Essex in one day.

The show at Tooth’s Gallery, New Bond Street went on from 11th May to 3rd June 1939 and was a great success.  ‘Cliff’s in March’, sold at the show is one of the missing ER paintings possibly in private collections in the UK, Canada, Australia or New Zealand.

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Graham Bennison, March 2021. https://www.facebook.com/BennisonArtist

Marianne Straub

Marianne Straub OBE (1909-1994) was one of the leading commercial designers of textiles in Britain in the period from the 1940s to 1960s. She said her overriding aim was: “to design things which people could afford. … To remain a handweaver did not seem satisfactory in this age of mass-production”.

Marianne Straub was born on the 23rd of September 1909 in the village of Amriswil, Switzerland, the second of four daughters of the textile merchant Carl Straub and his wife Cécile Kappeler.  She had tuberculosis as a young child and spent over four years in a hospital ward, returning home at the age of eight. For most of this hospitalisation she was immobilised by traction and was dependent upon her hands and imagination for amusement.

Having left hospital and started school another six-month period of inactivity, aged 12 and 13. saw Straub develop an interest in yarns. She requested a narrow strip loom and to plain cloths she added adventurous colour combinations and areas of brocading.

In 1928 Straub studied art at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Zurich, focusing on hand weaving and textiles in the final two years. Her tutor was Heinz Otto Hürlimann, who had studied at the Bauhaus. She then spent six months working as a technician/helper at a mill in her village. She was paid with twelve towels – “worth every penny!”

Marianne while an art student in Zurich 1927

She moved to Bradford, arriving in 1932 to undertake a year’s study at Bradford Technical College. Bradford had addressed correspondence to her in Switzerland as a ‘Mr Straub’. One reason for choosing Bradford was that Swiss technical colleges would not accept women students – and at Bradford she was only the third female student. On arriving at Bradford College the staff were surprised to discover that she was a Miss Straub and not a Mr Straub!

After completing her course in one year instead of the usual three years she was invited to work at Ethel Mairet’s Gospels studio at Ditchling where she developed her hand loom techniques. Following this she worked as a consultant designer for the Welsh milling industry, advising 72 mills that were supported by the Rural Industries Bureau between 1934–7 and learning the skills of mass production. In 1937 she joined the firm of Helios, a subsidiary of Barlow & Jones as head designer, becoming managing director in 1947.

1 A Scarf of undyed Southdown wool woven for Gospels 1933. 2 Welsh tweeds 1945-37. 3 and 4 A selection of Helios fabrics.

In 1950, Straub joined the firm of Warner & Sons in Braintree, Essex, and remained associated with the firm until 1970.

Warner fabrics 1952 to 1970

It is at this point in 1950 that our interest takes us to Great Bardfield. Straub had been introduced to Edward and Charlotte Bawden shortly after her move to Braintree. In 1952 Straub purchased Trinity Cottage in Great Bardfield.

She recalls: ‘I went there a lot through the Festival of Britain….I decided it would be a nice place to live.  One day Edward Bawden rang and said “My gardener (Fred Mizen) says the cottage opposite is for sale”, so I drove over and looked at the cottage and decided to buy it.’

Walter Hoyle recalls: ‘I first met Marianne Straub in 1952, she was having tea at the Bawden’s when I called in. I was immediately struck – and that is the right word – by her personality, forceful, pleasant, on friendly first-name terms from the start.  I had recently moved into a farm cottage on the outskirts of Great Bardfield and Marianne enquired if I had curtains. When I told her I did not she immediately offered to make curtains for me using her woven materials…..we became good friends’.

Fabrics pieced together for curtains. Reminds me of the work of Paul Klee.

It was suggested that Marianne should take part in the Great Bardfield Summer Exhibition of 1954, a selection of her fabrics could be displayed in Bawden’s Brick House. When post exhibition, the artists met to work out expenses it was decided that it would be unfair to ask Marianne to contribute because hers was a non-selling exhibition. Marianne was upset by this and insisted on paying her contribution.

The village’s “open house” exhibitions attracted national press attention and thousands visited the remote village to view art in the artists’ own homes during the summer exhibitions of 1954, 1955 and 1958.

‘Reflections’ In the collection of the Fry Gallery

One of Straub’s most famous early designs for Warner was Surrey, a textile that featured in the Festival of Britain in 1951 and was used in the Regatta Restaurant.

Straub continued to work with Warner until 1970, she was also enlisted by Isabel Tisdall to create designs for the newly launched venture Tamesa Fabrics from 1964. Designs from the Tamesa range were to feature on everything from the QE2 to BEA’s Trident aircraft.

Straub was also among the designers used to create the livery for moquette upholstery on London Transport buses and trains. Her blue/green design (known as Straub) was used on all buses and trains entering service from 1969 to 1978, notably featuring on trains operating along the Piccadilly line extension to Heathrow Airport opened in 1977. The design – and variations of it – also featured in British Rail carriages of the period.

London Underground seat fabric. Top right: ‘Straub’ . London Transport – a moquette fabric entitled Straub, which was named after Marianne and was applied to all new buses and trains entering service between 1969-1978. Bottom right: Straub’ moquette textile in Piccadilly Line carriage opened by Her Majesty the Queen – 16 December 1977.

Straub also became an influential textile teacher, combining work with Warner with teaching at Central School of Art, London from 1956. She also taught at Hornsey College of Art and the Royal College of Art.

On retirement in 1970, she left Great Bardfield and moved to Cambridge. She continued to maintain her interest in cloth and weaving in retirement. In a letter to her biographer Mary Schoeser some three months before her death, Straub described her design process. “Whilst thinking of the new cloth, I think of its weight, its draping qualities, the handle; I see it in colours……The essence of the whole exercise is to place the cloth, in my imagination, into the situation in which it will be used.”

Straub was made a Royal Designer for Industry in 1972. In 1993, she received the Sir Misha Black Medal. She was also a Fellow of the Society of Industrial Artists and Designers (SIAD) and was appointed an OBE for services to textile weaving.

Straub returned to Switzerland in 1992 for the last two years of her life passing away on the 8th November 1994 aged 85.

‘Brisbane’ 1949 for Helios.

Graham Bennison April 2021. https://www.facebook.com/BennisonArtist

Please also see…….. https://httpartistichorizons.org/2021/02/28/walter-hoyle/

Facebook pages. Eric Ravilious and Friends https://www.facebook.com/groups/488249232182567

John Aldridge Artist and Friends. https://www.facebook.com/JohnAldridgeArtist

Percy Horton

Percy Frederick Horton Self-portrait; The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology

Percy Horton (1897-1970) was the eldest son of Ethel Marman (1866-1954) and Percy Horton (1870-1937). He was born in Brighton on the 8th of March 1897 the eldest of three sons. His father was a bus conductor and his mother worked in service.

Percy’s mother’s experience in service aroused in her certain social ambitions, she made sure that all three boys worked hard, all gaining a scholarship to Brighton Municipal Secondary School. Percy went on to Brighton School of Art in 1912, again with a scholarship, where he was awarded prizes for drawing and pictorial composition.  He also passed the Department of Education Drawing Examination with Distinction in 1914 and continued studying at the college until 1916. It was now that Percy’s politics and fate took a hand, joining the Labour Party and formulating a sympathy with socialism. He came to the conclusion that the Great War was an inevitable result of rivalry between all the great powers scrambling to achieve military and naval bases, raw materials and markets. These rivalries had resulted in a frantic arms race.

Percy Frederick Horton Portrait of the Artist’s Mother; Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries

When conscription was introduced in 1916 Horton refused conscription joining the No-Conscription Fellowship in Brighton. It was through the N.C.F. that Horton met his future wife Lydia Sargent Smith, eleven years his elder. Lydia, a suffragette in her early 20’s, was engaged to Horton’s friend Royle Richmond, a conscientious objector who was imprisoned. Richmond died in prison in December 1918 from heart disease exacerbated by prison life. Horton and Lydia married in 1921.

Percy Frederick Horton. Portrait of Lydia Horton

Alternative conditions were put to conscientious objectors e.g. accepting service under civilian authority. Horton refused all the alternatives belonging to the few who were termed ‘Absolutists’. A cycle of court martial and prison ensued. His appeal was heard on the 14th April 1916 by the East Sussex Tribunal who took little notice of his argument and tried to stop him speaking. He was eventually sent up to Edinburgh where his appointed regiment the 27th Fusiliers were based.

Horton was confined to a cell in the Guard Room at a chocolate factory in Portobello.  Refusing to put on a uniform he was sentenced to two years at Calton Prison with periods of solitary confinement.

Horton was taken to Edinburgh Hospital for an operation on a large ganglion on his wrist in 1917. During his recuperation he made several drawings of patients and nurses. Artist Edward Arthur Walton saw these drawings and became interested in Horton. Walton was able to get permission to take him into his care and Horton was officially discharged from prison in April 1918. With his health severely weakened Horton stayed with Walton for several months.

Edward Arthur Walton. Self Portrait. Walton frequently visited my old village of Ceres to paint.

More info on Walton can be found here. https://httpartistichorizons.org/2020/12/06/some-of-the-artists-that-visited-ceres/

After the war Horton briefly returned home to his parents in Brighton. Following a brief stay he continued his education attending the Central School of Arts and crafts in London. His first appointment after leaving the school was as an assistant art teacher at Rugby School, he resigned in 1922 hoping to get back to his own full-time study of painting. He sat the Department of Education Examination in painting, passing with distinction. He was awarded a one-year Royal Exhibition at the Royal College of Art.  The other students alongside Horton included Henry Moore, Edward Bawden, Eric Ravilious, Barnett Freedman and Peggy Angus with whom Horton formed a life-long friendship both sharing a passion for left-wing politics.

The Horton Family in Brighton.

Horton painted many scenes of Dulwich. He and his wife, Lydia lived at 11 Pond Cottages for many years. His neighbours were fellow artists James and Margaret Fitton who lived at 10 Pond Cottages.

1 Dulwich Trees. 2 Fair Hair Model 1925. 3 Model 1925. 4 Self Portrait circa 1940. 5 House Through the Trees.

Horton stayed two years at the RCA before becoming Drawing Master at Bishop’s Stortford College where he had a successful teaching time, the start to a lifetime of teaching. In 1930 Horton was invited to join the teaching staff at the RCA working as a painting instructor for the next nineteen years.

In 1934, the artist and designer Peggy Angus, invited Eric Ravilious to stay at Furlongs, the stark, flint-faced shepherd’s cottage she rented below Beddingham Hill on the Firle Estate. This resulted in some of Ravilious’s most celebrated landscape paintings. Horton was also one of the first visitors to Furlongs. Horton and Peggy shared a love of music as well as sharing their political leanings. The sound of Percy’s violin could often be heard coming from the cottage. Songs too resounded – Peggy’s Scottish ballads and folk songs and Percy’s Elizabethan rounds particularly enjoyed by Tirzah Garwood (Ravilious).

The Horton’s version of a holiday retreat was at Pump Farm, Assington, Suffolk and John Nash stayed with them through August and September 1936, Christine only staying a few days.  Assington was close to the Nash’s retreat at Wiston (also known as Wissington).  It was here at Pump Farm that Eric Ravilious and his lover Helen Binyon arrived for a week’s stay.  This was the first meeting between Nash and Binyon who within a year commenced their ‘affair’.

Coate’s Corner, Assington.

Horton was appointed Master of Drawing at the Ruskin School in 1949 having previously worked for the RCA when it moved to Ambleside during the Second World War, he produced a series of paintings of the Lake District and its people. He was at the Ruskin until 1964.

A Corner of Ambleside. House at Ambleside. Storm at Loughrigg. The Shepherd. Derbyshire Landscape.

In 1947, Percy Horton was invited to record in drawings the 150-mile Youth Railway being built by voluntary labour in war-ravaged Bosnia.

Horton’s interest in landscape painting and familiarity of the countryside around Furlongs, led him, in 1948 to a gamekeeper’s tower on Lord Gage’s estate at Firle, Sussex, John Nash a regular visitor. The tower served as painting studio at the weekends and holidays for the rest of his life. Atter retiring from the Ruskin in 1964 he moved to Lewes teaching a couple of days at the Sir John Cass School, Stepney Green and one day a week at Hastings School of Art.

Alfriston. The Dower House and Cottage, Firle. In the Valley, Firle. Shepherd’s Cottage, Firle (also painted by Ravilious). Farm at Firle. Mount Caburn.

The Lay, on the Firle Estate in Sussex, was also painted by Eric Ravilious in the 1930s. 

Like John Nash and John Aldridge, Horton was a prolific painter and there are scores of works I could have presented here. Here we have :- Girl in the studio 1947. House on the Seine. Lock Gates The Barn. Blind Workers at a Factory in Birmingham. Farm at Harvest. Haystacks. Portrait of a Private. Woman Ironing. Village in Luberon, France.

Horton passed away in 1970 a memorial retrospective was held at the Mall Galleries in 1971. His work may be seen in the permanent collections of the Tate, National Portrait Gallery, Arts Council, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge and a number of city art galleries.

I will leave you with one of his most famous portraits and the painting he was working on just before he died.

Unemployed Man. Geraniums in a Barrel.

Graham Bennison, April 2021. https://www.facebook.com/BennisonArtist

Loves Labours Sadly Lost – Bawden on Ravilious and the Morley, Morecambe and Colwyn Bay Murals.

Bawden and Ravilious by Michael Rothenstein. Watercolour. National Portrait Gallery.

Bawden writes: Eric came to London to the Royal College of Art in 1922 and was often seen in the student’s common room playing ping pong or sitting with girls in the broken-down old armchairs.  He was indolent, humorous, easy going – plainly a charmer,  Eric was never intentionally a hard worker. Little seen in the College he hid himself secretively and found the best hiding place in the School of Engraving. To work in the school was a privilege granted to few, admission being by application to the Professor, Sir Frank Short, who did not give it readily to students of the Design School as they could not be expected to reach even a moderate standard of good drawing.

Holidays at home were often spent sketching on the Sussex Downs.  The influence of Alfred Rich withered. New exciting things had been seen in London, work by Francis Towne, John Robert Cozens, Thomas Girtin and Samuel Palmer, also following in the tradition but breaking new ground with what seemed to be breath-taking freshness were contemporary paintings by Paul and John Nash.

The decorations in the Tate Gallery restaurant by Rex Whistler had been a success and Sir Joseph Duveen, later Lord Duveen, who had paid for the work was persuaded by Sir William Rothenstein to give money for decorations to be done at Morley College.  Sir William asked Eric and me to do sketch designs for the restaurant; subject; “London”. We decided to collaborate but even so such a vast intractable subject was too much for inexperienced young men to grapple with, Sir William rejected the sketches and suggested something on the lines of a fantasy and that suggestion turned out to be an inspiration.

Bawden and Ravilious perusing the Morley Murals.

Elizabethan plays, Shakespeare, Olympian gods and goddesses, Punch and Judy, a Miracle play and a doll’s house – Gosh! what a riot it was.  Whatever beneficial influence Italy had on Eric was now to some extent revealed, not by plagiarism, rather by his skill in organising space and in creating it for figures to be sent dancing and swinging in ballet movement across the walls The painting proceeded slowly and two years passed before it was completed. 

Venus Rising

Eric was still teaching intermittently at Eastbourne, but he had fallen in love with one of his students. The love affair with Tirzah Garwood blossomed on one of the walls; Tirzah impersonating Venus fully in the nude, stood proudly on a floating cloud.  It was the finest thing he painted.

Edward Bawden, composed in 1971.

Morley Murals – study
Morley Murals – Boarding House.

Artist Charles Mahoney was another invited to work on the murals, he worked in the Concert Hall, and Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious in the student Refreshment Room.

The Morley Murals were unveiled in 1930 by the Prime Minister of the day, Stanley Baldwin (a kinsman of Edward Burne Jones), the murals were such a sensation that an imperious Queen Mary commanded a private view with the three artists in attendance. Each artist and the other people involved in the project was given a presentation album, containing a beautifully lettered frontispiece, copies of images from The Studio and The Graphic and other photographs.

Tragically on 15 October 1940 a bomb hit the Georgian building, which Morley’s Elaine Andrews tells us, ‘folded like a pack of cards. 57 men, women and children who were sheltering in Morley from the Blitz perished.

Destroyed by a 1,000kg high-explosive bomb at 7.55pm on the night of 15 October 1940

Edward Bawden returned to Morley after the war and in the Refectory, you can look in and see his Canterbury Tales mural there.

In the spring of 1933 a commission from the architect, Oliver Hill, saw Eric and Tirzah paint a mural on the tearoom walls of the Midland Hotel, Morecambe. The couple found lodgings in nearby Heysham. Tirzah wrote in her autobiography of how the ‘…new hotel resembled a big white concrete ship’ facing out across the shining sands, mudflats and treacherous waters of Morecambe Bay’.

Hill and his financiers were eager to hurry completion of the mural prior to the opening of the new art deco hotel but as Eric and Tirzah worked, they became increasingly aware that their mural had no hope of lasting.

Tirzah and Eric at work in Morecambe

Tirzah wrote: ‘Decorating the tearoom was disheartening work because the plaster was too recently put onto the wall and as well as not being dry, it exuded little heaps of yellowish sand or lime or whatever it is that plaster is made with. When we were drawing out the design, if we used an India rubber or disturbed it in any way the white paint peeled off…’

B/W photo of the original mural. The Midland Hotel. Last photo: The mural today.

What is not widely known is that it was Tirzah that put most effort into the work – Eric departing on seven occasions (two days at a time) to return to work teaching at the RCA. The grand opening of the hotel took place in July 1933. The following year in March the couple returned to carry out extensive repairs but the mural soon deteriorated again.

In the 1980s theatrical decor artists from Thames Television had the notion of reproducing the mural, in its original location, for an episode of Hercule Poirot entitled ‘Double Sin’ that was to be filmed in the hotel. With only the black and white photographs as a visual source, the set designers were obliged to make their own judgements concerning the colours they used. A further restoration of the hotel in 2013 saw the mural re-painted by artist Jonquil Cook.

Link to the blog re Tirzah,      https://httpartistichorizons.org/2020/07/20/tirzah-garwood-11th-april-1908-27th-march-1951/

In 1934 Ravilious worked on his final mural, a commission for the Victoria Pier Pavilion at Colwyn Bay. Ravilious painted the wall of the tearoom, an underwater scene consisting of ruined arched buildings, Pink and green seaweeds float through the ruins of a submerged palace.

Study for the Colwyn Bay Mural. The Tearoom. The saved pieces of the mural.

One wall of the Eric Ravilious work has been lost because of water getting into the building, and the whole wall has been covered over with several coats of paint and plaster. The remaining sections are stored safely in a dry place.

Please do look at our Facebook group Eric Ravilious and Friends. https://www.facebook.com/groups/488249232182567

Graham Bennison. March 2021.

John O’Connor

John O’Connor – Self Portrait

John Scorror O’Connor was born at Leicester on 11th August 1913, a twin son of Vernon Fergus O’Connor (1875-1946), an optical instrument maker, whose family came from County Tipperary, Ireland, and his wife Annie Burnet née Scorror (1883-1964). After attending Wyggeston School and Leicester College of Art 1931-1933, John studied at the Royal College of Art 1933-1937, where his teachers included Eric Ravilious, John Nash and Robert Austin. Each influenced him, but from Ravilious he learned a great love of wood engraving. This was a golden age for private presses and, at the age of 23, O’Connor made engravings for an edition of Joan Rutter’s book of poems, ‘Here’s Flowers’, the first of his many book illustrations.

O’Connor visited the home of Ravilious and Tirzah Garwood in Castle Hedingham fascinated by the wood engraving technique as ER worked away under the light of a small lamp in the corner of a room.

Just some of the hundreds of wood engravings created by John O’Connor.

He married Mary Wilson Henry who had also been a pupil at Wyggeston and a student at Leicester College of Art. John served as a Flt. Lieut. in the RAF 1940-1946, still managing to cut a few wood blocks.  He arrived with the allied troops during the fall of Berlin and sketched the ruined city.  Back in England he married secondly at Filey, North Yorkshire in 1945, Jeannie Tennant, a teacher, they spent their honeymoon cycling around the Yorkshire Dales.

O’Connor was heavily influenced by medieval art, especially Gothic stained glass, manuscript illustrations and paintings of the 14th and 15th Centuries. He was also inspired by the works of Munch, Lucas Cranach, Joseph Wright of Derby and Murillo. As well as engravings, he produced his own stained glass window designs (for the Betton Memorial window in St Mary’s, Hadleigh) and painted many watercolours as well as powerfully coloured, slightly abstract oils.

Betton Memorial window in St Mary’s, Hadleigh

After war service, O’Connor taught at Hastings School of Art, moving in 1948 as principal of Colchester School of Art where his colleagues included Richard Chopping who designed the dust-jackets for the James Bond novels, his former teacher John Nash, and Edward Bawden. During his time at Colchester he lived in the Brett Valley Suffolk, firstly at Higham then at Shelley, where despite the tranquil settings he saw his favourite painting places, the ponds, willows, briars and honeysuckle, disappear beneath the bulldozer and the combine harvester – a time of great change.  In 1950 he provided text and engravings for ‘Canals, Barges and People’ subjects dear to his heart. His later books included ‘Landscape Painting’ (1968), a guide to the practical techniques which covered everything from the use of insect repellent to the theatrical element in landscape art. He also contributed to Harper’s Bazaar, House And Garden and the Radio Times. During the 1950s and 60s, O’Connor exhibited at the Zwemmer Gallery in London, and had many exhibitions throughout Britain.

John O’Connor’s two books plus canal art.

O’Connor was an enthusiastic teacher, full of intellectual curiosity; he held that artists had a duty to teach, and that contact with younger artists and students fed the imagination. jIn the staff room, he was remembered for his humour, his approachability and his anecdotes – and for letting it be known that he preferred the prettier girls as his models.

Former pupil Lottie Nevin recalls: My memories of John O’Connor are all very happy ones. I was privileged to grow up in rural Suffolk during the 1960’s at a time when East Anglia was still home to many creatives and artists.   Both John O’Connor and his wife, Jean, were very much a part of my formative years.  Jean taught me at school but it was John’s magical studio beside the stream in Shelley (or lower Layham?) that captivated my imagination and taught me so much.

I remember one lesson in particular- I went out with him (John) to look at recently harvested wheat fields. I had my drawing book and pencil, poster paints and water pot. I must have been about seven or eight years old. I can’t remember exactly what he talked about or, how I ended up making the painting but there was certainly some discussion on the importance of the getting the lines, the stubble ridges the right. For some reason I didn’t like them, I thought they were ugly and didn’t feel that they were part of the picture – (my naive eye could only see the stacks of wheat straw, piled up in cubes of eights around the fields) but John somehow encouraged me to see why they, the lines and ridges were so important. I then realised that ‘the cracks’ often hold the most unexpected beauty. Growing along the stubble tracks were poppies. Of course, it was those poppies and cart tracks that became the thing that brought the little picture together.

Of course, I did not verbalise that connection at the time, but it’s because of John that I owe so much. When you have a good art teacher, you learn so much more than just about the process of making art. You learn about life, too.

And I have one last happy memory of that day I spent with John spent painting out in the fields.  The look of joy on my mother’s face when I won first prize with my picture at the Hadleigh show under 10’s painting competition.

First painting is ‘Jenny Bone. Five of John’s landscape paintings.

Leaving Colchester in 1964, he was a visiting lecturer at St Martin’s School of Art until 1975 when the O’Connors left Suffolk for Kirkcudbright, Scotland a part of Scotland to which his wife belonged. making their home in a single-storey farmhouse and the byre beside the house became a three-room studio. He was a lecturer at Glasgow School of Art 1977-1984. His work was purchased by the Arts Council, the Tate Gallery, the British Museum and the Contemporary Art Society, as well as by several local education authorities; it can also be found in the Oslo Museum, the Zurich Museum and at New York central library.

Three of the Kirkcudbright paintings.

In 1947 he was elected to the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers and in 1974 to the Royal Watercolour Society and was an honorary member of the Society of Wood Engravers

Until 2001, O’Connor produced a monthly wood-engraving for Richard Ingrams’s Oldie magazine, work which involved considerable physical effort. This drive to create was typical, however, and he remained active as an artist – and full of energy – despite using a wheelchair and suffering from increasing deafness.

John O’Connor died on 5th March 2004.

John’s design for the Shell Guide to Britain Series published between 1934 and 1984, this one was 1960. And…..very proud to own three of John’s wood engravings pictured here.

Thanks to Colchester Art Society and Suffolk Artists for providing 50% of the text for this blog.

Graham Bennison https://www.facebook.com/BennisonArtist

Thomas Hennell 16th April 1903 – 1945

John Rothenstein on Hennell: ‘A tall, awkward rustic chap, but one of obvious sensibility, and, I should think, of complete integrity.’

Hennell was born in Ridley, Kent in 1903, the second son of the Rev. Harold Barclay Hennell and Ethel Mary Hennell. He attended primary school in Broadstairs and then secondary school at Bradfield College, Berkshire before studying art at Regent Street Polytechnic. Hennell qualified as a teacher in 1928 and taught for some years at the Kingswood School, Bath and at the King’s School, Bruton in Somerset.

‘Beechan Cliff Farm from Widcombe’ across from Bath 1930. ‘A Bedroom at Rathcoursey House,’ County Cork, c. 1930-32.

Whilst at college Hennell had begun cycling around the British countryside to work on essays and illustrations of rural landscapes.

‘Threshing 1930?’ ‘Threshing 1931 ?’

Hennell cycled into Great Bardfield in 1931 on his ancient, black bike with a suitcase tied on the grid seeking material for his book ‘Change in the Farm’. A quest for accommodation led Hennell to Mrs Kinnear’s Brick House, a lodging house which already had two lodgers – Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious.

Bawden recounted: ‘One morning in 1931 when Eric Ravilious and I came down to the kitchen in Brick House to wash ourselves we found a stranger, stripped to the waist pumping water over his head and making quite a splash in the large slate sink. He was tall, thin with black beady eyes rather close set, dark sightly curly hair and as he greeted us his voice had a deep, booming parsonic ring, echoed even more loudly when he laughed. Outside leaning against the doorpost was a heavy, khaki-coloured Army bike and on it, tied to the bar between saddle and steering wheel, a large and perfect specimen of a corn dollie…..Tom greeted us in the most friendly manner. Our identity was divulged in a matter of seconds and friendship was established immediately’

Edward Bawden’s drawing ‘Garden Party at Brick House’. Thomas Hennell is seated front left with Ravilious behind. Tirzah Garwood (Ravilious) front right with Bawden behind.

With a mutual interest in the countryside they became firm friends, and Ravilious produced four engravings for Hennell’s ‘Poems’ of 1936.

Hennell’s Book of Poems with the four wood engraving illustrations by Eric Ravilious.

“The Angel”, draft of a poem – Claybury Psychiatric Hospital 1932-1935. “When at first I would seek a mate / I met an angel in a tomb”. The angel is a re-occuring theme for Hennell. The poem ends “And now I seek nor care for any human, / That is an eagle which I thought a woman”. The eagle is a reference to Marion Richardson who rejected Hennell’s marriage proposal. ‘The Angel’ was published in the Oxford University Press Poems of 1936.

Hennell suffered a nervous breakdown from 1932–35, diagnosed with schizophrenia and was detained at the Maudsley Hospital, Camberwell, South London before being sent to Claybury Psychiatric Hospital, Woodford Green.

Portrait Study: Five Figures at Claybury Hospital.. c.1935

Edward Bawden encouraged Hennell, recuperating at Brick House, to write The Witnesses, an account of his mental illness. Hennell stood as godfather to Edward and Charlotte’s son Richard.

Having recovered from illness Hennell returned to the work of recording scenes of rural crafts and craftsmen at work. At the outbreak of the Second World War an ambitious scheme ‘Recording Britain’ was set up by Sir Kenneth Clark employing artists on the home front. The result was a collection of more than 1500 watercolours and drawings that make up a fascinating record of British lives and landscapes at a time of imminent change.

Hennell was passionate about Windmills, some of his finest work for the Recording Britain project. Hennell made hundreds of drawings of windmills many recorded in ‘The Windmills of Thomas Hennell’ by Alan Stoyel 1993. ISBN 13: 978 1 84306 224 0

Top left: ‘Steel Workers’ Middle left: ‘Flint Pile, Making a Road. c. 1937-41.’ Bottom left: ‘Winchcombe Pottery 1940.’ Top Right: ‘The Hermitage, Long Bredy 1938.’ Right second down: ‘Abbotsbury Tithe Barn c.1940.’ Third down: ‘Stooking Corn, Mill Half Farm, Whitney on Wye 1941. ‘ Bottom right: ‘The Guesthouse, Cerne Abbas. c.1940.

Hennell was sent at short notice to Hampshire to record the magnificent beech avenue at Lasham before it was felled to make way for an aerodrome. He worked for the Ministry of Information in 1941, producing watercolours of rural crafts and agriculture in Kent, Dorset, Berkshire, and Worcestershire. His great interest was rural England and its fast-disappearing country life, the recording of which became a way of life.

‘Beech Avenue at Lasham 1941.’

Hennell sketching.

Hennell painted ‘Summer at Ridley’ in 1942 prior to flying to Iceland. Farmer Eric Chapman requested that Hennell paint his farm.

At the outbreak of war in 1939 Hennell had written to the War Artists Advisory Committee, offering his services as an artist. From 1943 he was a full-time salaried war artist.  It wasn’t until 1943 that he received his appointment and his first posting – to replace Ravilious in Iceland.

In 1942 Ravilious, had on arrival at the Iceland base, immediately volunteered to accompany an air-sea rescue mission – presumably intending to sketch the rescue – but his Hudson aircraft disappeared soon after take-off and was never recovered.

Paintings as a war artist, Iceland 1942.

Hennell painted in Iceland throughout the second half of 1943 before going to the northeast of England in January 1944 to paint maritime topics. In May 1944 Hennell went to Portsmouth to record the preparations for D-Day, which he took part in. Throughout the invasion he spent two months with the Canadian First Army as they moved through the north of France.

Hennell commented: “We look, in landscape painting, not primarily for a rationalised statement, nor for a description of fact but for the moment of vision. Watercolour is the most lovely, delicate and flower-like of all ways of painting. I don’t need to be told that a row of men lining up with their cups and mess tins when the mess-corporal shouts ‘Come and get it’ – is as fine a subject as a good drawing needs.”

‘Flooded Fields at Walcheren’.

He sent back watercolours of a variety of subjects recording the Allied advance towards the strategically important port of Antwerp, which was taken on 4th September. On 3rd October the Royal Air Force Bomber Command tore a 120-yard breach in the sea dyke at Westkapelle on the heavily fortified island of Walcheren. On 1st November Royal Marine Commandos stormed Westkapelle and by 10 November, after fierce fighting, often waist deep in mud, German resistance ended. The Scheldt and the port of Antwerp were re-opened to shipping on 28th November. This typically rapid watercolour was almost certainly made on the spot. It is signed

A year later Hennell was sent further afield, to record the war effort in India and Burma, which he did with success until the official cessation of hostilities. He survived the war but was not to survive the peace, being captured by terrorists in Batavia, Indonesia in November 1945 and subsequently reported missing, presumed killed.

At the time of his death, Hennell was widely considered to be one of Britain’s most significant water-colourists possibly the last great watercolourist of the English tradition. He was also an original, strange and visionary poet and the author and illustrator of a number of important books about English rural life.

‘Rathcoursey House, County Cork 1940.

Bawden commented re Hennell’s work: “We (Bawden and Ravilious) regarded him as a man of genius. The best of it is as good as anything done by other English 20th Century watercolourists”

“I have no doubt that Thomas Hennell was the greatest watercolourist that England has produced during this century” Carel Weight RA, painter and teacher.

I have two books of mine here which will be of interest, both can be easily found on line and fairly cheap.

‘British Craftsmen by Thomas Hennell 1943.’ Passionate about country crafts Hennell recorded craftsmen at work portraying the lives of the craftsmen.

‘The Land is Yours’ by Henry C Warren 1944. Illustrations by Thomas Hennell.

Finally can I pay tribute to a wonderful new book just published – ‘Thomas Hennell. The Land and the Mind’ by Jessica Kilburn 2021. ISBN 978 1 910258 62 0

Graham Bennison March 2021. https://www.facebook.com/BennisonArtist https://httpartistichorizons.org

Walter Hoyle

Walter Hoyle and Denise Hoyle

Walter Hoyle (1922–2000) was a latecomer to the art community of Great Bardfield moving to the Essex village in 1952.

Hoyle was born in Rishton, Lancashire in 1922.  His father died when he was three years old, this having a lasting effect on him and his two older brothers and sister. The children went to live with an aunt in Blackpool while Hoyle’s mother went to London in search of work. Mrs Hoyle found work with an artist’s agency and later settled in Beckenham, Kent opening a bakers shop on the high street.

Walter and his siblings joined her and aged sixteen he entered Beckenham School of Art. In 1940 he was awarded a place at the Royal College of Art, the college relocating to Ambleside due to the war. He studied there until being called up in 1942.

As an army medical orderly, he was posted to India in 1945 returning to the UK in 1947.

He was offered a post graduate year at the RCA and it was here then that he first came across Edward Bawden who became a friend and close influence. He took up a funded place to study mosaics at the Byzantine Institute of America in Istanbul, prompting an interest in Byzantine colour and design.

The Modo, Istanbul.

Hoyle recalled: ‘It was the beginning of my fourth year at the RCA and there I met Edward. After leaving the RCA I spent another seven months in Istanbul, and it was on my return that Edward invited me to Great Bardfield.  ‘The first time I met Edward he was with John Nash and Kenneth Rowntree.  Edward and Nash were marvellous together, constant banter and leg pulling, rather like Morecambe and Wise.’

In 1950, Bawden asked Hoyle, along with Sheila Robinson, to help with the completion of his Country Life mural for the Lion and Unicorn pavilion at the Festival of Britain. The next year Bawden invited Hoyle to accompany him on a painting holiday to Sicily. Hoyle’s resulting paintings were exhibited at the Leicester Galleries, London, in 1952. It was this close friendship with Bawden that eventually led to Hoyle moving to Great Lodge Farm cottage, Great Bardfield.

Paintings of the trip to Sicily including the now rare book ‘To Sicily With Edward Bawden’. Published in a limited edition of 350. Signed by Olive Cook (intro) and Hoyle. The book was originally published in handwritten form in 1990 in a limited edition of just ten copies. 

Hoyle was soon introduced to the other Great Bardfield artists including John Aldridge. Hoyle stated:’ John, having a private income amongst all the Great Bardfield artists was a capitalist and a conservative. He had not gone through the art college system nor developed alongside art students most of whom were always hard up………John had a powerful car, an Alvis and when he got behind the wheel, he enjoyed the power and speed the car offered him.’

Paintings of Great Lodge Farm, the cottage was dilapidated when Hoyle moved in.

Hoyle took part in the Great Bardfield Open House exhibitions in 1954, 1955 and 1958 (designing the catalogue cover for the 1958 exhibition). At the first of these he met his French-born wife, Denise, an artist in her own right. Denise’s wealthy artistic employers had secured her services as an au pair in London, they were friends with Michael Rothenstein who had moved to Great Bardfield in 1941. Walter and Denise’s children, James and Nina were born in 1956 and 1960 respectively. In 1957, the family moved to the neighbouring village of Great Saling.

The first pic here is Hoyle’s ink drawing which was used as the cover for the 1958 Great Bardfield Summer Exhibition catalogue. A great year as Bolton Wanderers beat Man U 2-0 in the FA Cup Final !! Had to get that in. Hoyle produced many illustrations for the Post Office Savings Bank also pictured here.

Hoyle was working at the Central School of Art, London but found the travelling quite tiring. He was, therefore, relieved to secure a post at the Cambridge School of Art where he set up a print-making studio. In 1975 the family moved to Bottisham, nearer to Cambridge. Retiring from the school there in1984. That year Walter and Denise moved to Hastings to be within reach of the flat they had bought in Dieppe a year earlier Hoyle continued to work on his art between Hastings and Dieppe until he died of a heart attack in 2000.

The Hoyle’s would travel from Hastings to Dieppe via the ferry from Newhaven. The first pic here is a painting of Dieppe Harbour. Also included here some of Hoyle’s later work.

Hoyle’s lino-cut ‘Bust in a Garden’ plus lino-cuts from the Cambridge series.

I will conclude on a personal note as taking pride of place in my kitchen is the Women’s Institute Book of Party Recipes 1969 illustrated by Walter Hoyle. Just in case lock-down ever ends and I want to throw a party ! The accompanying illustrations inside are superb and I will sometime share them on the John Aldridge and Friends Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/JohnAldridgeArtist

Graham Bennison February 28th, 2021. https://www.facebook.com/BennisonArtist