The Suffolk eccentric whose medical misfortunate cost her a career in music but led to a life in art.
Our 18th March Twentieth Century Art & Design auction includes several paintings by (Eva) Lucy Harwood (1893-1972). Her vibrant works display a colourful personality and individuality of spirit, which was also apparent in the life she led, despite an early devastating setback.
Harwood was born into a wealthy Suffolk family at Belstead Hall near Ipswich but moved with her family to Ackworth House in East Bergholt whilst still a baby. As a young woman she showed great musical talent as a pianist, but a botched medical operation left Harwood partially paralysed on her right-hand side and ended her ambition to turn professional. Instead, she transferred her creative ability to canvas and enrolled in the Slade School of Fine Art in London before the start of the First World War.
After her parents’ death in the late 1930s, Harwood, then in her 40s, became one of the first students at the East Anglian School of Drawing and Painting set up by Cedric Morris and his partner Arthur Lett-Haines, just four miles away in Dedham. The school was described in an early prospectus as "an oasis of decency for artists outside the system". Harwood remained associated with the group for many years and still referred to herself as a student even into her 70s.
Despite not being able to fully use her right hand, Harwood cycled to the school every day until it burned down in 1939 (possibly accidentally caused by a teenage Lucien Freud and cheered on by local traditionalist artist Alfred Munnings shouting “Down with Modern Art!”), and the school re-located to Benton End on the outskirts of Hadleigh. Harwood followed and moved to the nearby village of Upper Layham, where she would stay until her death.
Harwood became a well-known figure locally and was remembered for serving a formal tea for her friends with buns, bread and jam every Sunday afternoon. Fellow former student Maggi Hambling, recalls how “people maintained a respectful distance both from her paint-spattered car and the lethal port wine she served to visitors”. She never married and devoted herself to art and her local community; she often sold her work cheaply to neighbours and took great pleasure in seeing her paintings hanging in neighbours' cottages.
Influenced by the Post-Impressionists, Harwood painted colourful landscapes, still life’s and portraits of her fellow students and neighbours – all with only her left hand. The four examples included in our auction comprise two portraits, a still life and a garden scene – all displaying her typical exuberant use of colour and spontaneous brushstrokes. She exhibited at the Ipswich Art Club, was a member of the Norfolk & Norwich Art Circle, and became one of the earliest members of the Colchester Art Society; exhibiting at their first exhibition in 1946. A retrospective exhibition of her work was held at The Minories art centre in Colchester in 1975 and further shows followed at Sally Hunter Fine Art. Both Ipswich Museum and the Colchester Art Society hold examples of her work.
The 18th March auction is open for viewing on Thursday 17th 10am-7pm and on the morning of the sale from 9am.
The forthcoming Harwood paintings can be seen on our website. Condition reports and further images can be emailed and uploaded to the website upon request.
For further information about our Twentieth Century Art & Design auctions contact Shaun Crichton email@example.com or 01284 748 618.
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