Hugh Lee (1918–2011)

Image: corner of Richmond Hill and The Vineyard.

As displayed in Richmond home

From: Penelope Fitzgerald – a Life (2013) by Hermione Lee:

“…Oliver Breakwell and Hugh Lee…were public-school boys from Harrow, talented, bright and gregarious. The fair-haired and dapper Hugh Lee, always known as ‘Ham’, was reading Modern Languages at Oriel, and would have a career in the Ministry of Defence and the Treasury. His deep love was art, and he later became a good, modernist-influenced painter…”

“…Hugh Lee said that during the war, the men all wanted to get married, and none of the women did…Whenever she was asked about it, Penelope said: “I married an Irish soldier.”…”

“…’Ham’, Hugh Lee, her old friend from Oxford, had got in touch with her in 1978 and invited her to visit him and his wife in the Vineyard in Richmond; a friendly correspondence ensued. But there were things she would not talk about. Walking down Church Road in Richmond, seeing her to the train, he asked her what had happened to Desmond. She said: “He just died.”…”

Nancy Groves wrote in the Sutton and Croydon Guardian of 7.11.08:

“…Born in Kashmir, (Lee) spent most of his working life in the British Civil Service, first in the Ministry of Defence and later in the Treasury. But, after retiring in 1986, he began taking painting lessons and, while he did not get on with the figurative style, he was soon making art every day.

He now works from a room on the top floor of The Vineyard house that he and his wife Penny have shared for the past 30 years.

“I don’t like to call it a studio,” says Lee. “The walls are entirely covered with strokes of paint where I have wiped my brushes so it is more like a large painting surrounding me.”

And the gallery does not stop there. More than 500 of his artworks hang on the walls at his home and, when several were removed to Orleans House this week, the gaps were filled almost immediately.

The Richmond show will be his first public exhibition and Lee jokes that if all five of his children turn up – including Edmund, who is vicar at Christ Church, East Sheen – he will be doing well…”

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