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 and Arthur Lett-Haines.
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.