Mollie Russell-Smith [21 April 1924 – 11 November 2014] & my adoptive mother, is an authentic 20th Century British artist who produced a significant body of work during her long life. You can see the website I have written to showcase here work here
As a member of the Benton End circle, in the 1940s, her art was intertwined with that of Cedric Morris, Kathleen Hale & Lucien Freud among others. She titled this painting ‘Benton End Gates’.
Mollie was a talented illustrator and wrote & published several books for children She was also a long term associate of the Beckenham School of Art where she taught & led by example, making many hand-block prints, including abstract work.
Some of her pictures are in private collections but we, her heirs, are now able to offer a variety of pieces for sale. Our aim in doing so is not to make a fortune, but to share the happiness that Mollie’s work conveys.
Shortly before she died Mollie appeared in the Grierson, Award winning documentary, Garnets Gold. If you would like to see a short clip, from the film, of her singing the Dingle Dangle Scarecrow [which she wrote] please click here
You can read more about the film Garnet’s Gold here
Mollie Russell Smith studied at Benton End & this is an except from the book Benton End Remembered: “In 1940, Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines, both established artists with international reputations who had become disillusioned with the commercial aspects of the art world, moved to Benton End, overlooking the River Brett on the outskirts of Hadleigh, Suffolk. What they found there was a somewhat ramshackle but capacious sixteenth-century farmhouse, standing in over three acres of walled gardens lost beneath brambles and elder trees; the house had not been lived in for fifteen years. But Benton End became both their home and the new premises of the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing which, in 1937, they had founded together in Dedham, Essex. Without formal teaching, they were free to pursue their own enthusiasms, while Morris’s skill as a plantsman and noted breeder of irises, contrasted with Lett Haines’s intellectual sophistication, interest in food and wine, artistic experimentation, and a general lack of enthusiasm for the outdoors.”
From 1940 until Lett Haines died in 1978 and Cedric Morris in 1982, Benton End was an exotic world apart where art, literature, good food, gardening and lively conversation combined to produce an extraordinarily stimulating environment for amateurs and professionals alike. Ronald Blythe recalls that ‘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 mannered. Also faintly dangerous.’
The sharply contrasting characters and interests of Morris and Lett Haines ensured the widest range of contacts and visitors to Benton End who included Francis Bacon, Ronald Blythe, Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, David Carr, Beth Chatto, Randolph Churchill, Elizabeth David, Lucian Freud, Kathleen Hale, Maggi Hambling, Lucy Harwood, Glyn Morgan, John Nash, and Vita Sackville-West.
There was no formal teaching and students were left free to pursue their own enthusiasms and to show their work to Morris or Lett Haines for advice.