E. Lucy Harwood was born on New Year’s Day in 1893 at Belstead Park near Ipswich into a wealthy family of yeoman ancestry. Shortly after her birth her family moved to Ackworth House, East Bergholt, where they lived until the death of her father. As a teenage girl Lucy had shown outstanding musical ability and planned to become a professional pianist but a failed operation paralysed her right side, obliging her to abandon her musical ambitions.
After studying fine art she attended classes at the Slade, showed a talent for drawing and after the death of her mother in 1938, moved to Octagon House, Dedham, becoming, at the age of 45, one of the first students at the East Anglian School of Drawing and Painting set up by Cedric Morris (q.v.) and Arthur Lett-Haines (q.v.).
Influenced by Cedric Morris and Post-Impressionism, she painted landscapes and portraits of her fellow students and village neighbours, keeping a daily journal and every Sunday at 4.30 served a formal tea for her friends with buns, bread and jam. When in 1940 the School accidentally burned down and moved to The Pound in Higham and later to Benton End Lucy bought a house in the nearby village of Upper Layham where she lived until her death. Here she became an institution and Maggi Hambling, a former student, recalls how “people maintained a respectful distance both from her paint-spattered car and the lethal port wine she served to visitors.” Regarded as an eccentric Lucy never married and was able to devote herself to the community and her art, taking pleasure in seeing her paintings hanging in neighbours’ cottages. She became one of the early members of the Colchester Art Society, exhibiting Still Life with Chrysanthemumsand Layham Landscape at the first exhibition of 1946.
Describing herself as a dedicated Post-Impressionist, she developed a great love for the countryside and felt an affinity with van Gogh and Gauguin, among others, but also retained a passionate pictorial independence, evolving a style of great delicacy and detail, with a bold palette and flamboyant impasto. In later life her spontaneous style and unique colour sense, won her approval from Cedric Morris, Augustus John and Matthew Smith, according to Lett-Haines who wrote the introduction to her commemorative exhibition at the Minories in 1985. Her debt to Cedric Morris in this particular work appears in the large brush strokes, colours and straightforward delineation of spring flowers.
White Cottages with Knab Beyond
Although Lucy Harwood lived in the same locality all her life, she travelled both in the UK and abroad every year when the East Anglian School was closed for the winter. Morris and Lett-Haines also travelled during that period, although separately. This painting represents a cottage situated in one of the most peaceful areas of the English Lake District. A knab or nab is a Scottish word of Scandinavian origin meaning a peak or summit. The Nab is also the name of a fell in that area with a moderate height of 576 metres which is very popular with walkers. On its Northern approach there exists a former shooting lodge built in 1910 by the Earl of Lonsdale for the visiting Kaiser Wilhelm, which could possibly be the cottage painted here by Lucy Harwood.
Landscape with Blue Mountain
This painting could have been painted at the same time as No 39 and could be a painting of the Knab or Nab in the Lake District. It was also suggested that this might be a Provencal landscape because of the colour scheme.
1962 and 1975, The Minories, Colchester: Landscape with the Blue Mountains (No 55 in this catalogue),1962; Lucy Harwood, a Commemorative Exhibition, 28th June – 20th July 1975
Also many local exhibitions
Works in Public Collections
Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service (5)
National Trust for Scotland, Haddo House (1)
BUCKMAN, David, Dictionary of artists in Britain since 1945, Art Dictionaries Ltd, Bristol, 1998, p. 550
HARWOOD, Lucy, Lucy Harwood, Sally Hunter Fine Art, 1987
COLLINS, Judith and SPALDING, Frances, 20th century painters and sculptors, Antique Collector’s Club, 1991, p. 229
DEBENHAM Charles, Charles Debenham’s East Anglia, Sansom, 2000
HAMBLING, Maggi, Maggi Hambling the Works: And Conversations with Andrew Lambirth, Unicorn Press, 2006