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Henry Bird

Henry Arthur Richard Bird (1909-2000) was an artist and teacher, best known for his mural paintings in Northamptonshire. He was born in a Northampton slum and worked his way through Northampton School of Art, before winning a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London. In 1936 he became a lecturer in art history at the University College of Wales in Aberystwyth for 5 years. This was followed by a period in London as head scene painter at the Old Vic and Sadler’s Wells, and as resident designer at the Embassy Theatre. In 1950 he returned to Northampton with his wife, the actress Freda Jackson, to take up a teaching post at Northampton School of Art. He was a strict taskmaster and his drawing classes became legendary. He painted a number of substantial mural scenes in Northamptonshire: at the Guildhall in Northampton (1949), in the chapel of St Crispin’s Hospital at Duston, at Danetre Hospital in Daventry, and at Denton Church (1974). A major mural was his fire curtain for the Royal Theatre in Northampton, unveiled in 1978, which included portraits of his wife and the actor Errol Flynn. He had a studio in an attic above the Northampton and County Club, where he concentrated mainly on life drawing from the nude. National acknowledgement came in 1983 when he was granted a Civil List pension for services to art. ‘There are few better examples of local-artist-made-good than Henry Bird’, claimed his obituary in the Independent, and there were fulsome obituaries in The Times and the Guardian.

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Sketching near Norwich
An oil on canvas laid on board measuring 14½” x 29½”. Signed H. Bird. Inscribed on rear of canvas: ‘Sketching near Norwich. Henry Bird, Shirley, Dallington, Northampton’. Bird lived at this address from 1953, and later resided at Hardingstone House, Hardingstone.