Blooms and Brushes | Joan Warburton's Artistic Journey

Blooms and Brushes | Joan Warburton's Artistic Journey

Discover the creative journey of Joan Warburton, whose artistic legacy blossomed amidst the cultural haven of Benton End, influenced by Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines, leaving an enduring mark on English art.

21 March 2024

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Born in Edinburgh into an army family, Joan Warburton was raised near Colchester before attending finishing school in Belgium.  From 1937-1940 she was one of the first students to study at the influential East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing in Dedham, where she was taught by Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines. After the building was destroyed by a fire in 1939 the school relocated to Benton End where students including Lucian Freud, Lucy Harwood and Maggi Hambling, passed through its doors.

 

Joan Warburton (1920-1996) 'Summer Flowers' signed with initials and dated '65' l.r., oil on canvas 76 x 61cm (£7,000-9,000)

Joan Warburton (1920-1996) 'Summer Flowers' signed with initials and dated '65' l.r., oil on canvas 76 x 61cm (£7,000-9,000)

  
Also the home of Morris and Haines, Benton End with its three acres of gardens provided an extraordinary and stimulating cultural environment combining art, literature and horticulture. The school’s informal tuition encouraged creative freedom, and it was a setting in which Warburton flourished. It was here that she developed a strong interest in plants and flowers- a subject matter that was to endure throughout her career.  

 

Rose.Wallo, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Rose.Wallo, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Throughout the war Joan worked in the WRENS, in an arms factory and with the Red Cross Ambulance Service, often staying at Benton End during this period. Unlike some students such as Lucy Harwood who remained in Suffolk, after the war Warburton moved to London where she married Peter O’Malley, a ceramics lecturer at the Royal College of Art. However, her connection to Benton End endured and throughout her life she remained close friends with her tutor and mentor Cedric Morris. 

A prolific artist and passionate horticulturalist, Cedric Morris’s vibrant oils, which capture the English garden flowers that he cultivated in the delightful country garden of Benton End, have become highly desirable. The painting by Warburton (Lot 5) offered for sale clearly shows the influence of Morris in terms of composition and subject matter, while a carefully considered palette and close attention to detail demonstrate Warburton’s distinctive and decorative style. Created in 1965, this major work is quite a rarity for the period, as by the late 1960s, Warburton endured persistent back problems when easel painting, resulting in her giving up on oil and working instead in gouache and watercolour. 

 

Joan Warburton (1920-1996) 'Summer Flowers' signed with initials and dated '65' l.r., oil on canvas 76 x 61cm (£7,000-9,000)

Joan Warburton (1920-1996) 'Summer Flowers' signed with initials and dated '65' l.r., oil on canvas 76 x 61cm (£7,000-9,000)

 

Over the course of her career, Warburton’s work featured in many group and solo shows throughout Suffolk, Essex and London, beginning at The Weekend Gallery in London in 1948 and culminating in several exhibitions at Sally Hunter Fine Art, prior to her death in 1996. 

In 2014 The Medici Gallery in association with Sally Hunter Fine Art, held an exhibition titled ‘Joan Warburton and the Benton End Effect’, exploring how Warburton’s time at Benton End became central to her life and way of looking at the world, profoundly changing the lives and thinking of the many artists who stepped through its doors. 
 
Joan Warburton (1920-1996) 'Summer Flowers' signed with initials and dated '65' l.r., oil on canvas 76 x 61cm (£7,000-9,000)

Joan Warburton (1920-1996) 'Summer Flowers' signed with initials and dated '65' l.r., oil on canvas 76 x 61cm (£7,000-9,000) 

 


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