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GWSR exhibition celebrates artist’s work

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GWSR exhibition celebrates artist’s work
Laurence Fish's wife, Jean Bray, at Winchcombe station with her book 'Pick up a Pencil' on the life and work of her husband.

The work of Laurence Fish will be on display at an exhibition held at the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR) Winchcombe station on the weekend of 18-19 September.

The event will also screen three new short films about the artist by local cinematographer Richard Suckling.

Laurence Fish, who lived and worked in Winchcombe, was the last of a long line of artists commissioned to create art to promote destinations served by rail on outdoor posters.  His images, produced in the 1960s as the age of steam was coming to an end, were displayed throughout the UK and Europe and are now sought-after collectors’ items.

He started his artistic career designing coachwork for bespoke coupé and saloon cars for the likes of Alvis, Bentley and Delahaye.  During the War, his illustrative skills were sought after, particularly in counter-sabotage work for MI5 – producing sectional drawings showing the internal workings of lethal explosive devices and booby-trapped bombs to enable them to be safely detected and defused.  Some of these drawings, including an exploding bar of chocolate, will be displayed during the event.

It was after the war that Laurence Fish went on to an acclaimed career as a commercial artist, creating almost photographic-quality images of aircraft for magazines and aircraft makers as well as scenes promoting industry – including oil, civil engineering and rail travel.

Jean Bray remembers her husband, artist Laurence Fish. (McNidder & Grace/Cave Bear Films)

Richard Johnson, GWSR.

Richard Johnson, chairman of GWSR said: “I’m thrilled that at the third attempt, we can do something to promote the work of Laurence Fish through the ‘Posters from the Steam Age’ exhibition, especially as during his later years his studio was in Winchcombe.

“Whether his posters appeared on our railway stations I’m not sure as the stations were closed from 1960 just as Laurence’s work was being widely commissioned by British Railways, so this is a chance to right that omission!”

Jean Bray, the late artist’s wife who is putting on the show in conjunction with the GWSR, said: “It was in poster art for British Railways that Laurence perhaps made his mark with some stunning if idealised paintings of holiday destinations, frequently featuring attractive ‘pin-up’ girls.  That would never be permitted today!

Jean Bray contemplates her husband Laurence Fish’s poster on Weymouth, displayed at Winchcombe station.

“Most were produced in full colour while he created compelling duo-tone images too, for example promoting the Pullman services of the Southern Region. 

“Such posters were a very familiar sight throughout the country, but originals are extremely rare today and often command four-figure sums at specialist railwayana or art auctions.  One of his posters won the 1960 National Outdoor Advertising Award.”

Postponed twice due to COVID-19, organisers are hoping this will be third time lucky for this interesting event.

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