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Internationally-admired artist Graham Arnold dies at 86

By Toby Neal | Clun | South Shropshire entertainment | Published:

An acclaimed Shropshire artist who was a founding member of The Brotherhood of Ruralists and whose work was admired internationally has died at the age of 86.

Acclaimed Shropshire artist Graham Arnold

Graham Arnold lived in the county for nearly 35 years and despite a major stroke last year yearned to return to his much-loved house and studio near Clun and paint again.

Sadly, that was an unfulfilled dream and he died in hospital in Hereford. The funeral was held at Chapel Lawn on April 1.

Paying tribute, former BBC arts editor Christopher Martin, who lives in Ludlow, said: "Graham Arnold was an outstanding painter and thinker and who was an important member of a group of distinguished artists who sought to counteract what they saw as the damaging impact of the Modern movement on the great traditional strengths of English art.

"Together with Peter Blake, David Inshaw, Graham Ovenden, Annie Ovenden and his wife Ann they formed The Brotherhood of Ruralists – old painterly skills would be revived, the old relationship of artist and the landscape would be celebrated.

"The Brotherhood was almost immediately the subject of a major BBC film documentary and, though the participating artists have gone their own ways since then, the widespread interest in The Brotherhood's thinking and manifesto continues to this day."

Prizes and exhibitions

Born in Sydenham, Arnold exhibited after the war at the Royal Academy before National Service which saw him teaching at an Army boarding school in the forests of Malaya's Cameron Highlands – which Chinese insurgents were trying to infiltrate.

"Back in England he studied further, exhibited, won prizes. In 1958 having won a prize to spend two years in Rome he bought a Lambretta motor bike to get there and he travelled extensively through France and Italy.

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"In 1961 he married Ann and continued to paint and to teach.

"As his reputation grew, in 1974 they moved to Devizes to concentrate on painting. There The Brotherhood was formed and from there he exhibited in London's Piccadilly Gallery, the Silk Top Hat Gallery in Ludlow and indeed in galleries over much of England and Wales.

"In 1986, true to his Ruralist principles, he and Ann moved to the Pentre, an idyllic spot in deepest Shropshire. But if this was the Ruralist dream come true there were problems – acres of hillside and woodland to cope with, plus a vast but beautiful garden left little time for art. They moved into the nearby village of Chapel Lawn. There his and Ann's painting flourished.

"Graham's paintings became more varied. There were simple paintings of flowers, of which he was a master, but now there were much more fanciful, bigger pictures of highly imagined landscapes with incredible features, all painted with brilliant clarity.

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"And there were incredibly detailed constructive montages in boxes with details within of everything from small-scale cricket matches to actual, minute glass bottles. His reputation spread nationally and yet he always remained much involved in the life of the local community.

"Ann died in 2015. Graham had sometimes suffered from periodic bouts of serious ill-health. He succumbed to a major stroke in the spring of 2018 and spent the next 10 months totally incapacitated and under care in Ludlow.

"Bravely he plotted his return to his much-loved house and studio in Chapel Lawn. He ordered artist's pencils and paper and had an easel specially made to accommodate his need to try and get back to work again.

"It was not to be. In mid-March he suffered a major relapse and was taken by ambulance back to Hereford hospital. He died there after eight days."

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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