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Graham Arnold

Fellowship: June 1954 – March 1964 Digswell House

Artform: Painting

1932 – Born in Sydenham, London

1944-1947 -Attends Beckenham technical college

1952 – Commences National Service with the Royal Artillery, Shropshire

Awarded National Diploma in Design

1953 – Sent to Korea as a Geography teacher

1954 – Demobbed from the National Service

1954-55 – Returns to study at Beckenham art school and successfully completes entrance examine to the Royal College of Art

1955 – ‘Six young comtempories exhibition at Gimples Fils Gallery, London

1955-1958 – Studies at the Royal College of art

1957 – Awarded the David Murray Landscape Prize

1960 – Fellowship at Digswell House starts

1966-70 – Visiting tutor in painting, Royal Academy schools; occasional lecturer at Epsom School of Art

1974 -moves to Devizes

1976 – First showing of Ruralist work at the Royal Academy summer exhibition

1978 – Commissioned by the British Museum to execute a painting inspired by the museum’s Oriental collection

1979 – Suffers a heart attack

1983 – First one man show at London, at the Piccadilly Gallery

1989 – Begins painting for Ruarlists’ touring exhibition – ‘the secret garden’

1992 – Spends the spring drawing and painting for exhibition ‘a journey home’ at the Silk Top Hat Gallery, Ludlow.

Graham Arnold is a Shaman. A Shaman was originally a sage, part priest, part medicine man, who ministered to the needs of remote and primitive peoples. He owed his authority and his powers to his communion with spirits from afar and more ancient period than ours. In Graham’s case they are the earth sprits that still inhabit the Neolithic sanctuaries that frequently appear unobtrusively in his pictures. They are benign sprits, as those privileged to know him would no doubt.

Their power to move still exists and is silently witnessed by the pictures themselves.

Telephone conversation with Graham Arnold, 21 July 2002 – this was sent to Digswell Art Trust for the purpose of the DVD.

In 1955 1 of 6 artists were chosen by the Arts Council for the ‘Young Contemporaries’ at Gimple Fils.

In the last year of his college days, the distinguished and visionary Henry Morris approached Graham with a proposal that he come to settle at Digswell House, Welwyn, on return from Italy.

So Graham saw Digswell in 1958. A large classical house; the local council were for pulling it down to expand Welwyn Garden City, but Henry Morris had persuaded them to let it stand as a colony for artists: painters, sculptors;, stained glass, pottery, engraving, weaving etc. There were studios purpose built, and low rents of £1 per week. They had their own exhibitions.

Graham was dubious, but allowed himself to be persuaded. So on return from Italy in 1960 he went and stayed very happily until 1963/64. He married Ann in 1961, and she came there with him – to Digswell.

Graham describes Digswell as a hothouse for artists – community, and a chance to compare notes; also the general atmosphere of individual work and shared aims.

During the time at Digswell Graham began teaching a day a week at Beckenham, and there he met David Inshaw and John Morley as his students. John visited Graham at Digswell but David never did.

Around 1970 – all three started the idea of a country commune, because of the difficulty of artists earning a living. Morley was sympathic, but distrusted the idea of commune, and began buying cottages in Suffolk. Another interested person was a friend of Ann’s – Peter Nott, who was married with a child.

David Inshaw who was already living at Devizes alongside Graham and Ann Arnold who moved next door – formed the ‘Broadheath Brotherhood’. Graham and Ann moved there in 1974 in the end the group had seven members including: Peter B, Jan Howarth, Graham and Peter’s wife Emily.

Therefore the Brotherhood of Ruralist was formed in 1975.

Graham states that he might not have thought of a country group, and probably would not have been eager to join, but for his very happy experience over the several years at Digswell.