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Lucy Harwood (1893-1972)

Lucy Harwood was a true eccentric whose off-beat individuality is revealed in her art. Her paintings pulse with power and originality.

Born Eva Lucy but known as Lucy Harwood, Lucy was born at Belstead Hall, near Ipswich on 1 January 1893, only daughter of Alfred Harwood, landowner & farmer, and his wife Edith. Unfortunately, a tragic mistake during an operation led to her partial paralysis obliging her to relinquish her ambition to be a pianist and focus instead on painting.

Lucy Harwood attended the Slade School of Fine Art before the First World War and after her mother’s death she began to study at the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing run by Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines. At this time the school was located in Dedham, just four miles away. Harwood cycled there daily despite her disability.

After her mother’s death she moved to the Octagon House in Dedham in order to be on the spot. In 1940 another change was made necessary when a new student, the sixteen-year-old Lucien Freud, accidentally burned the building down (to exhibitionist shouts of ‘Hurray’ from Alfred Munnings, later president of the Royal Academy, who lived nearby).

The school relocated to Benton End near Hadleigh in 1940; she purchased a house in the neighbouring village of Upper Layham in order to continue painting there. She became one of the school’s longest serving students, and produced many vivid, colourful paintings using thick confident brushstrokes.

Lucy became a well-known local figure: Maggie Hambling a former pupil at Benton End, recalls that ‘people maintained a respectful distance both from her paint-splattered car and the lethal white port she served visitors’. At Benton End she became an institution. Though she herself had a respect for social forms rather comically at odds with her own eccentricities (for many years she presided over a formal afternoon tea at the school every Sunday), the menage at Benton End was far from conventional.

Ronald Blyth has described its effect on visitors: ‘the gardeners (Cedric Morris was also a noted horticulturist) wove their way round easels propped up in the long grass and the artists, of all ages, painted peering visitors and dense foliage in the exuberant Morris manner… there was a whiff of garlic and wine in the air… The atmosphere was…robust and coarse, and exquisite and tentative, all at once. Rough and ready and fine and mannered. Also, faintly dangerous.’

Lucy retained a remarkable humility about her work, almost never signing it, and always submitting a picture for criticism to Cedric Morris or Lett Haines before considering it finished.

Though she lived in the same small locality all her life, after the war she travelled abroad every year (The East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing did not operate in the winter month when conditions ‘en plein air’ were poor). She would paint in all weathers.

Harwood was a member and exhibitor at the Norfolk and Norwich Art Circle 1946-48 and took great delight in selling her art in the local area.

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