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Painting memories from childhood by Richard Bell

The back garden gate of my parent’s house opened onto Acomb Fishponds Wood and as a small boy I often went out there to play with my friends.  The ponds and woods are thought to have been part of parkland belonging to Acomb Hall, a large residence beside Wetherby Road and now demolished.  In the Wood there were two large fish ponds surrounded by mature beech trees with their silver grey trunks and tangled roots.  There were paths around the ponds and benches for people to sit and enjoy the views.   I remember seeing wonderful sunsets through the of beech trees arching over the ponds. 

[My 2020 oil painting showing the sunset view as I remember it in the 1940s]

When I was about 8 years old, an artist often came to paint views of the trees.  He lived nearby and had sons not much older than me.  His name was Arthur Boddy and he was a member of York Art Society.  He let me peep over his shoulder and watch him paint in watercolours.   There was no TV in those days and this was the first time I had seen a real artist in action.  I was fascinated and told my father about the artist.  He went out to watch too.  This inspired my father to buy some watercolours and have a go.  He showed his first effort to Arthur, who was very encouraging.  My father joined an art class and went on to enjoy painting in watercolours and oils for the rest of his life. 

I learnt a lot from watching my father painting and this started my own lifelong interest in art.  Later my own sons did well with art at school and then my wife, Valerie, began to study art as well. By the time I retired in 1996 I had lived most of my life with painting going on in the house and I was itching to start painting too.  It has been a big part of my life ever since.

A couple of years ago, Art Society member, Chris Richardson, mentioned that she had some paintings from her late brother-in-law, Mike Boddy, the paintings were done by his father, Arthur.  Chris showed them to me.  Immediately, I recognised some of the actual paintings I had watched Arthur paint when I was a small boy.  Chris gave me two of them and they are a lovely reminder of how my interest in art began over 70 years ago, thanks to a member of York Art Society.

[This is Arthur Boddy’s painting.]

Recently I thought it would be nice to do a painting of the Fishpond Woods as they were in my childhood.  So Valerie and I we went to have a look.  The woods are now a very pleasant nature reserve but nothing like the parkland I remember from 70 years ago. Nearly all the beech trees have gone and the ponds have been filled in.  Other species or trees and bushes have been planted where the ponds and open spaces used to be.  They have grown so dense they block the view of the sunsets I remember so vividly from my childhood.  So I decided I must rely on my childhood memories.  Painting from memory is quite a challenge, especially when the memory is so old! I hope you like the result.

[This is Valerie’s 2020 mixed media painting showing the woods as the nature reserve they are today.] 






Art in 1921

by Richard Bell

York Art Society was founded in 1921.  Planning for it had begun in 1920, only two years after the end of the Great War – “The War to end all wars”.  The aftermath of the Great War must have been a strange time.  There was the Spanish Flu’ pandemic.  The Great War was over and our side had won but at huge cost to life and limb.  There were War memorials were in every town and village because people wanted to remember.  People also wanted to recover and find ways to get on with their lives and look forward to a brighter future.  1921 was the start of the decade which became known as “The Roaring Twenties” and “The Jazz Age”.

The art world played its part, reflecting a similar range of feelings and hopes.  On Armistice Day, as a sign of Peace, Claude Monet offered his wonderful water lily paintings to the French state. They now hang in the Orangerie in Paris.  York Art School taught painting as therapy for soldiers returning traumatised from the War.  It also taught skills like signwriting and painting and decorating to help people find work.  Artists all over the world were seeking ways to develop their art in new, exciting, and sometimes controversial, directions.

This is a list of some of the famous artists, sculptors, potters etc, young and old, who were alive in 1921.

Claude Monet (1840 – 1926)  

Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954)

Pablo Picasso (1881- 1973)

Georges Braque  (1882 – 1963)

Salvador Dali (1904 -1989)

Edvard Munch (1863 – 1944)

Constantin Brancusi (1876 – 1957)

Walter Sickert (1860- 1942)

Gwen John (1876 – 1939)

Augustus John (1878 – 1961)

Stanley Spencer (1891 – 1959)

Paul Nash (1889 – 1946)

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887 – 1986)


Edwin Ridsdale Tate (1862 – 1922)  

Henry Moore (1898 – 1986)

Jacob Epstein (1880 – 1959)

Barbara Hepworth (1903 – 1975)

The Scottish Colourists

FCB Cadell (1883 – 1937)

JD Ferguson (1874 – 1961),

SJ Peploe (1871- 1935)

GL Hunter (1877 – 1931)

Dame Laura Knight (1877 – 1970)

Ben Nicholson (1894 – 1982)

L S Lowry (1887 -1976)

David Bomberg (1890 – 1957)

William Moorcroft (1872 – 1945)

Suzie Cooper (1902 – 1995)

Readers will recognise most of the names on my list and you will probably have other names to add to your own lists.