CAS Permanent Collection . Henry Collins
Henry William Collins was a painter, graphic designer and teacher, born at 25 Bergholt Road, Colchester in 1910, the son of Henry Percy Collins, a gas fitter and his wife Marie née Beagley, who married at Colchester in 1909. Henry studied at Colchester School of Art and the Central School, London and in 1935 started his career by designing a poster for London Underground entitled Cheap Return Fares printed by Waterlow & Sons Ltd (see link below).
During World War II he served with the Royal Artillery and the Royal Engineers, and after the war worked as a freelance designer, establishing himself as a professional artist. After a commission by the Central Office of Information for the Festival of Britain in 1951 (1), he was commissioned for a series of exhibition designs and murals together with his wife, fellow artist Joyce Millicent Pallot (q.v.) whom he met at Colchester School of Art in 1932 and married at Tendring, Essex, in 1938. Henry and Joyce were to live and work together for the next 56 years. Together, in the 1970s, they worked on a large number of concrete and mosaic murals (2) for public and commercial buildings. They signed these collectively as “Henry and Joyce Collins”. Some of the murals can be seen in Colchester and in other locations in the United Kingdom (see list below)(3). There are some in the USA, Japan and Belgium as well (see below).
Collins was also an educator, teaching part-time in the Graphic Design Department of St Martin’s School of Art, London, for 25 years as well as at Colchester School of Art and various adult education centres. In 1946 with John Nash (q.v.) and Cedric Morris (q.v.) Collins founded Colchester Art Society, for which he designed the logo, which has been used ever since. He was made an Honorary Member in 1972. He also designed the poster for Colchester Art Society’s first exhibition at Colchester Castle where he exhibited with his wife Joyce Pallot. Collins lived in Lexden Road (No 195), Colchester, with his wife Joyce. They had a son, Nicolas. Collins died in July 1994 at Colchester. A memorial exhibition was held at Essex County Libraries in 1995-1996.
Besides large murals, both Henry Collins and his wife Joyce Pallot worked on smaller scale paintings, prints, and collages. Stripped Tree Trunk provides a fine example of such work. Here Collins’s strong sense of structure and design combined with a fine eye for colour is especially evident. There is a similar oil painting, entitled Colne Willow, in a private collection, also painted at about the same time. This watercolour painting is most likely therefore to be of the same subject, a willow tree along the river Colne.
As well as the countryside Collins loved the coast - its people architecture and industry - and he painted many views of Harwich, Felixstowe and Dovercourt, as well as views of further afield, places such as Wales and Tyneside. There he often used collage as well as paint and a predominant royal blue which gave the paintings a cheerful quality. He painted oil still-lifes too and although his later compositions became freer, they still retained linear movement as is the case here.
Selected murals and works
(about 20 murals including some in underpasses built during the development of Southway, an inner relief road in town)
Also Gloucester, Hitchin, Worcester and Cowley (Oxford)
Selected exhibitions of paintings and drawings
Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibitions, 4 times
Colchester Art Society
Hatfield Hines Gallery, Fakenham, Norfolk
Hayletts Gallery, Maldon, 1994
Ipswich Art Club, 1977
The Minories, Henry and Joyce Collins with Andrew Dodds, 1962; Henry and Joyce Collins, 1967; Henry and Joyce Collins, 1972 and 1974; Paintings in oils, watercolour-gouache by Henry Collins/ Joyce Pallot – Paintings, 1977; Paintings, Watercolours, Designs, a Retrospective, joint exhibition with Joyce Pallot, 1984
Paintings in public collections
Sheepen, Colchester, Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service
BUCKMAN, David, Dictionary of artists in Britain since 1945, Art Dictionaries Ltd, Bristol, 1998, p. 281
(1) Together with Joyce Pallot (q.v.), they created a mural for the Sea and Ships Pavilion.
(2) They produced more than 60 murals, but never worked on the sites themselves. Instead they used a regular contractor who cast the concrete in panels around four feet square and put the murals into place. The reliefs were made in reverse, and then concrete was poured into plastic moulds, which were then broken to release the concrete murals. Later the couple used wooden moulds which could be re-used.
(3) By the end of the war as many as a thousand murals were made in the UK as a product of the post war building boom.