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.
Here are some recent photographs of Bridge End Gardens that are just behind the Fry Art Gallery.
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.
In July 1933 the Nash went on holiday to Marlborough with his friend Ruth Clark. From there they made a day trip to nearby Avebury. This is a video of his photographs, drawings and paintings he made inspired by the Stones.