Mollie Russell-Smith 1923 - 2014

News has just reached us of the death of Mollie Russell-Smith. At 91, Mollie was our eldest alumna who graduated from the BSoA in 1940 as the Certificate shows below.

She regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibitions, published children’s books and poetry, and was an active artist right up to her last years. Her reminiscences of her bliss full days at our art school during World War Two are worth reading and can be found in our Stories Section. Her poignant poem Cleared Site mourns the demise of the BSoA. It was read by Mollie’s son Garnet at our Plaque Day ceremony in July 2008. Photographs of our burnt down art school are shown in Paradise Lost in our History Section.

There is an arid gap in my landscape;
Chawed out by earthmovers:
Where sprawling shrubs are clawed by metal teeth.
A great tree remorselessly hacked down,
A tree which bloomed with cobalt violet flowers,
A tree hacked down and burnt away to ash.

This was the garden of the old Art School,
Which was itself mysteriously burned;
The black acrid scars
Softened with weeds and grass and budlia.

I mourned the poor old building,
Home from home to countless students:
Leaky, dilapidated, full of charm,
Smelling of linseed oil. Such happy days!

But while the garden stayed,
I could construct it in my mind again,
Walk through those doors and greet my vanished friends:
Old tunes, old laughter, canvases and paint.
There is an acrid gap in my lifescape
Chawed out by earth movers.

The following is a selection of Mollie’s art from the time she started at the Beckenham School of Art just before WWII to her last years. It shows an astonishing range of styles, techniques and subject matter from portraits, landscapes, book illustrations, still lifes and figure drawing in a variety of media from pen and ink, oil painting and water colour. A dedicated webpage will be published soon celebrating more work by this prolific artist, writer and teacher. We are proud to claim that she was an alumna of the Beckenham School of Art.