Photo of Lehmann painting a mural at the Wardens’ Club, St Pancras ARP headquarters in London, 21st August 1940.
Born in Catemu, Chile, to a father of German and French descent (born in Paris) and a Scottish mother, Olga Lehmann was educated at Santiago College, Santiago, and in 1929 moved to England, where she was awarded a scholarship to the Slade School of Fine Art, London University.
Olga Lehmann – Figure Painting, Slade School First Prize (Equal), 1931
At the Slade she studied fine art under the tutelage of Henry Tonks and Randolph Schwabe, specializing in theatrical design under Vladimir Polunin and in portraiture under Allan Gwynne-Jones. Awarded prizes in life painting, composition, and theatrical design, she visited Spain in the early thirties; Spanish and Moorish themes were subsequently reflected in her art.
Her productive working life as an artist spanned almost six decades, from the 1930s to the 1980s. Throughout the 1930s she acquired a reputation in the fields of mural painting and portraiture.
She exhibited her work at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 1933, and with the London Group in 1935. Later sitters of note consisted of people associated with the film or record industries such as singers Edric Connor, Carmen Prietto, conductor Richard Austin, and actors Dirk Bogarde and Patrice Wymore. During the Blitz in 1940, her studio-flat in Hampstead was destroyed by a bomb, and much of her early work was lost. She worked as an artist throughout the war, painting murals in canteens and offices.
Olga Lehmann – Mural design for the Canteen in the Censorship Division.
After World War II, her name chiefly became associated with graphic design for the Radio Times, and designing for the film and television industries. She was nominated for several Emmys for her costume designs.
Olga Lehmann – Design for Ivanhoe, 1981
1977: Lehmann received an Emmy nomination for outstanding costume design on The Man in the Iron Mask.
1978: Lehmann received an Emmy nomination for outstanding costume design on The Four Feathers.
1981: Lehmann received an Emmy nomination for outstanding costume design on A Tale of Two Cities. Lehmann designed costumes for Rosemont’s television films Ivanhoe and Witness for the Prosecution.
1984: Lehmann received an Emmy nomination for outstanding costume design on The Master of Ballantrae.
She also worked as an illustrator of many record covers including the famous BBC recording of Under Milk-Wood by Dylan Thomas. Her stage and set designs are some of her most collectable paintings.
Olga Lehmann – Cover for Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas
In 1939 she married author and editor Edward Richard Carl Huson, by whom she had one son, author and television writer and producer Paul Huson. She was predeceased by her husband in 1984, and she moved to Saffron Walden into one of the ‘Artisans Dwellings’, a row of houses designed for artists and weavers of the town. Because of her history and that she lived for some time in Saffron Walden, Lehmann’s work can be found in the Fry Art Gallery.
Stanley Clifford Smith at home in Great Bardfield in the 50s
It is a sad fact that histories are penned by the winners, or the people left to write it. In the case of the Great Bardfield artists that history was left to Olive Cook. When the Fry Art Gallery was set up in 1986 she wrote the history of the local artists and for about 10 years that version of the truth was printed and reprinted. It has now thankfully been corrected now but with more time on my hands I went back to the original copies of their visitors guides and found she had erased Stanley Clifford-Smith totally. It might have been due to the Fry Art Gallery not owning any of his work at the time they opened. But history can be uncovered and re-penned (and as I mentioned, has been). This happened to some lengths when Stanley’s son, Silas Clifford-Smith wrote ‘Under moon-light’ a biography his of father and his mother Joan Glass.
Joan Glass – The Reflected Gardener
Stanley Clifford-Smith, known mostly as Clifford, was three years younger than Bawden and had four children by the time he moved to Great Bardfield. When young, Clifford was partly raised and schooled in Paris as his father was working there. As a child he had seen Debussy perform Clair de Lune and the composer came to their home for dinner. He had served in the Navy during the war as a navigation officer and lived in various properties in East Anglia, focusing on painting and designing textiles with his wife. Joan Clifford-Smith (née Glass) worked under her maiden name. She had studied at Chelsea Polytechnic under Graham Sutherland and one of the life models was Quentin Crisp. At Chelsea she started designing textiles and selling designs to carpet manufacturers. During the war she joined the Wrens and worked in the BBC Canteen.
Joan and Stanley married in Newmarket in 1946, and in 1952 they moved to Buck House, Great Bardfield and later the Old Bakery opposite Edward Bawden’s Brick House. Unlike the artists in St Ives that tended to influence each other, these Essex artists all had different styles and influences. John Aldridge being a traditional painter, Bawden more comic and print based, Rothenstein taking abstraction to it’s limits and becoming more like Britains Picasso, and then George Chapman who’s modernist welsh pictures looked rather alien in the East of England and also favoured etchings. Clifford was the most experimental painter of the village (Rothenstein being the most experimental printmaker) and his style was inspired by French painters and Expressionism, but like all the artists, translated it into his style.
Stanley Clifford-Smith – Clair de la lune, 1965
This small Essex village in the 1950s and 60s became a refuge for artists who had moved out of London when looking to start a family, but where still working in the city, mostly as art teachers and found it easy to commute back and forth. Having so many artists in a small location, the village applied for a money to have an art exhibition as part of the 1951 Festival of Britain arts grant. They got the money, had the exhibition and found it to be so successful that they wanted to do one again in 1954, and these became known as the Great Bardfield Open House exhibitions. Other Open house exhibitions were in 1954, 1955 and a touring exhibition was in 1957 and 1958.
Stanley Clifford-Smith – Harbour and Figures, 1956
It was Stanley Clifford-Smith who helped set up these open-house days in Great Bardfield and exhibited 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.
In the 1960s the artists with larger families all started to move away from Great Bardfield and Clifford Smith moved to London. By the 70s very few artists were left and John Aldridge was the only artist to stay until his death in 1983.
Stanley Clifford-Smith – Woman Bewitched by the Moon
Here are some recent photographs of Bridge End Gardens that are just behind the Fry Art Gallery.
The legacy of the Livermore sisters lives on in their rather beautiful gravestones in Barnston, Essex. They were painted by Kenneth Rowntree for the Recording Britain and being interested in typography I find them interesting. In 1941 Kenneth Rowntree had also moved to Great Bardfield, settling with his wife Diana (née Buckley) into the “a handsome draughty house” Town House. The sisters histories were rather sad however.
Kenneth Rowntree – The Livermore Tombs, Barnston, Essex, 1940
The Livermores were a large nineteenth century family who lived at the Hall in Barnston. Each grave has a poem but I am not sure were, my guess based on the tone is that they are poetic themes inspired by the Book of Common Prayer.
Martha 14 years old (d 1827) A slow decline
My life was like an April sky
Changing at each fleeting hour
A slow decline taught me to rely
And rest my hope in my Creators power
Emma 22 years old (d 1840) Thrown from her horse
Our life is but a single thread
Which soon is cut and we are dead
Then boast not reader of thy might
Alive and well at noon and dead at night
Jane 19 years old (d 1841) Heart attack
The rising morning ca’nt assure
That we shall end the day
For Death stands ready at the door
To take our lives away
Maria 16 years old (d 1841) Smallpox
Put not your trust in strength or youth
But trust in Heaven whose gifts they are
And now the solemn voice of truth
Hear, and to meet thine God prepare
Barnston Hall, Essex.
As some of you might know I am selling some of my pictures in the Cambs Antique Centre in Cambridge. This Summer the works are mostly Fry Art Gallery Artists: Walter Hoyle, Eric Ravilious, Edward Bawden, Sheila Robinson, Chloe Cheese, Bernard Cheese, Olive Cook and John Bolam… and more.
There are many more on the walls than I have listed but if you live in the Cambridge area you can also view them like a small gallery.
The Cambs Antique Centre is in Dales Brewery, Gwydir Street, Cambridge. CB1 2LJ. Please also be aware the Mill Road Bridge is closed to car traffic so if you are travelling into Cambridge to see the shop please come in on the City Centre side of the bridge.
This is a post about the back of Brick House, the home of Edward Bawden in Great Bardfield. It is an odd thing but many artists ended up painting the back of Bawden’s house more than the front. One would guess they were painted during parties or over weekends.
Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious were young artists, they met as students at the Royal College of Art, London, in 1922. Bawden and Ravilious moved into Essex in 1925, Cycling around the area they came across Brick House, Great Bardfield where they rented rooms from Mrs Kinnear, a retired ship-stewardess, for weekends away from London.
Ronald Maddox – Brick House, 1960
Brick House is an early 18th Century red brick house with two floors and windowed attics. The property had two staircases, so when the house was rented it was divided into two parts with a shared kitchen and scullery. It had been the home of a carriage maker, a girls school, and a coffin maker in it’s past. Mrs Kinnear rented rooms but lived her with two daughters and her dog.
When Edward Bawden married Charlotte Epton in 1932, Edward’s father bought them Brick House as a wedding gift and Charlotte’s father, who was a solicitor took care of the paperwork.
The first picture here, by Eric Ravilious is painted from the top of the house. At this time the roof was being repaired and retiled as it was in poor condition after purchase. Edward and Eric both climbed up the ladders to the roof to paint the view, you can see more of the guttering to the right of the picture below than you could from the view of Edward’s studio.
Eric Ravilious – Prospect from an Attic, 1932
The picture below by Bawden shows the roof being repaired by Elisha Parker and Eric Townsend and their ladder to the roof. Even though the house was sold, Mrs Kinnear (the old landlady) had left all her possessions in the building while she took up a Housekeeper post in the New Forest. Charlotte managed to arrange that the possessions would be stored in the Village Hall and with the help of Mrs Townsend (Eric’s mother, who was also the washer woman) she moved them out of the house. While the roof was repaired Charlotte Bawden cleaned and fumigated the rooms prior to them being decorated.
You can see Elisha and Eric on the roof below.
Edward Bawden – They dreamt not of a perishable home, who thus could build, 1932
The bizarre name for the painting was inspired by Mary Gwen Lloyd Thomas, one of Charlotte’s friends who edited poetry books, the quote is from Wordsworth:
They dreamt not of a perishable home who thus could build
Be mine, in hours of fear
Or grovelling thought, to seek a refuge here;
Or through the aisles of Westminster to roam;
Where bubbles burst, and folly’s dancing foam
Melts, if it cross the threshold
In the Garden is a little wooden trellised hut that the Raviliouses had given to the Bawden’s as a wedding present. You can see the foundations being installed in the picture above with wheelbarrows around and upturned earth (They dreamt not of a perishable home…).
It is my feeling that the picture below by Charles Mahoney was painted in 1932, likely just after the roof was completed. It is part of the collection of the Royal Academy and they date it as 1950s, likely because the missing trellis. Why do I think ’32? Well the same concrete foundations and wheelbarrows are where the trellis would later stand (the site of the buckets), and the waterbutt is to the left in Mahoney’s painting where as in the painting below it by Ravilious the waterbutt has been moved. Also the shed beside the trellis was lost in the war and replaced by one with a different roof axis. But mostly because it looks so much like the painting above.
Charles Mahoney – Barnyard (RA Say 1950’s I say 1932)
You can see the completed trellis in the picture by Ravilious below. Also the blue gates helped divide the part of the Bawden’s garden from Mrs Kinnear part of the house originally, it was also where she kept her dog. Later on as motorcars became popular the gates would divide the house from the driveway.
Eric Ravilious – The Garden Path, 1933
The brougham cart in the picture below was a purchase by Charlotte Bawden who bought it mostly because she thought the wheels were so valuable. Tom Ives (the farmer from Ives Farm at the end of their Garden) was selling it, and for some years it was kept under the trellis.
On the top of the trellis building is a wooden carved soldier made by Eric Townsend, the arms moved in the wind to scare birds on the farms.
Edward Bawden, My heart, untravel’d, fondly turns to thee (aka Derelict Cab), 1933
The picture below is of a Snowstorm by Bawden, he has scratched the paper to give the effect of snow blowing on the wind in all directions as it falls. The view is from the window in his Studio that looked almost right down the drain pipe. The carriage likely sold or scrapped by that point.
Edward Bawden, February 2pm, 1936
In 1937 the Country Life Cookbook had wood engravings inside, designed by Eric Ravilious and it featured a small wood engraving of the Brick House garden and the trellis again. By this time the Raviliouses had moved to Castle Hedingham, about six miles east of Great Bardfield.
Eric Ravilious – August, Wood-engraving for the Country Life Cookery Book, 1937
Below is a painting by another visitor to Brick House, Geoffrey Hamilton Rhoades. He is mentioned in Anne Ullman’s edited Tirzah Garwood biography Long Live Great Bardfield. This painting has a guessed age of c1940s, I would again say it is likely mid-to-late 1930s as the toy soldier is still on top of the trellis. The other amazing and totally unrelated detail about this painting is it was bought by Pixie O’Shaughnessy-Lorant in 1987. What an amazing name!
Geoffrey Hamilton Rhoades – Brick House, Great Bardfield, likely about 1935
During the Second World War Edward was touring the world painting as an official War Artist, Charlotte was in Cheltenham teaching and potting at Winchcombe, and their two children Richard and Joanna were at private schools in the Cotswolds. As the Brick House was empty it was used, and abused by the Home Guard and local officials as a headquarters. The house was the only building in Great Bardfield to suffer bomb damage. Many villages in the East of England were bombed, not as planned targets, but mostly from German bombers trying to dispel leftover bombs after failed bombing raids on airfields, factories or docks. The bombs being so heavy would use up more their the aircraft’s fuel and make it harder to fly back to their Nazi bases over the German Ocean.
After the War, John Aldridge painted the builders repairing Brick House. It was likely that the trellised building Eric and Tirzah gave to the Bawden’s was blown up at the same time. Eric, also an official war artist was also lost in the Second World War, in an aircraft off the coast of Iceland.
John Aldridge – Builders at Work, Brick House, Great Bardfield, 1946
John Aldridge had moved to Great Bardfield with Lucie Brown (nee Saunders) and the couple lived in sin until in 1940 John married her when he signed up to join the war effort.
The last painting of Brick House is this snow scene by Edward in 1955. Richard and Joanna are on a sledge and the roofs are covered with snow as is the ground making the red bricks bolder in colour.
Edward Bawden – Brick House, Great Bardfield, 1955
At midday from Cambridge Station I got onto one of the cleanest railway carriages I have seen in years to Liverpool Street. Being so late in the day may have been why I had the carriage to myself, and even as I travelled south through various cities, no one else joined me, it was quite luxurious, I would say there were twenty people onboard the whole train.
It was nice to sit and forget about the world, to not be in my house and to feel normal again, even with a facemask on and the perfume of alcohol hand gel. The one thing I love about travelling by train is the views, looking into peoples homes and gardens, looking in at their world and thinking that the trampoline that likely means they have children, or the various conservatories and extensions properties have had. I even enjoying seeing how the blurred scenery changes from houses to fields and then to the industrial Tottenham Hale in a series of scattered wipes.
Into a tunnel lit by white disco balls the train slides with a La Monte Young symphony of train break screams into Liverpool Street Station, the railway cathedral of Edward Bawden made of iron.
The station is now one way and the flow of traffic pulled me towards Old Spitalfields Market where I met my friends Mark and Lawrence. Lawrence runs an art stall. If you don’t know the history of the market, there has been a market on the site since 1638 when King Charles I gave a licence for flesh, fowl and roots to be sold on Spittle Fields, then a rural village. In the Victorian era was known mostly for selling fruit and vegetables. The market was acquired by the City of London Corporation in 1920, to serve as a wholesale market and in 1991 the market was in the heart of the city and made it harder to trade from, so it moved to New Spitalfields Market, Leyton, and the original site became known as Old Spitalfields Market.
On Lawrence’s art and sculpture stall was a had a painting by Fred Dewbury. It is odd how a painting catches your eye and the infatuation of owning something takes hold. I asked the price and orbited the market to think about it. Rather like my train journey in I kept seeing the painting from different angles and view points as I circled around. On the train the houses and trees were blurred as I was moving past and as people got in the way or the sides of the wooden market stalls blocked my view point I realised it was the picture looking at me. Needless to say I bought it, but it’s rare to look at anything from such different angles in London these days unless it is St Pauls.
On my train journey home the same buildings and trees past me but it had started to rain and was getting dark, the stage scenery was the same but the lighting director had gone to work. The square windows of someone’s home became Christmas lights for me, a glitter covering the towns as my train washed down the tracks like a duck on a river.