CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Lancashire Life today CLICK HERE

Harry Ousey exhibition at the Salford Museum and Art Gallery

PUBLISHED: 00:00 22 May 2015

Mount Famine by Harry Ousey

Mount Famine by Harry Ousey

Mount Famine by Harry Ousey

The niece of a largely forgotten Manchester artist is fighting to restore his reputation. An exhibition being staged in Salford should help. Words by Paul Mackenzie

A Vase of Flowers on the Mantle Shelf, Hayfield 1947A Vase of Flowers on the Mantle Shelf, Hayfield 1947

When Sue Astles was growing up in the 1960s she used to long for the occasional visits her uncle made to her family home. When she saw his car outside the house as she walked home from school, her heart would leap. ‘He was just so with it,’ she said. ‘He’d be wearing coloured shirts he’d bought in Carnaby Street and his wife Susie would make her own Mary Quant style dresses. They used to buy me Beatles EPs and we’d play them really loud. My mum and grandmother weren’t impressed, but for me as a teenager it was brilliant.’

The avant garde uncle was Harry Ousey, an abstract artist who was largely forgotten after his death from cancer in a French hospital in 1985. But Sue is now working hard to establish her uncle’s reputation.

‘I have been told that his work is very important in the 20th century British art scene and I just want him to be remembered, as he should be,’ Sue said. ‘I realise he’s never going to be really famous but it’s just about bringing him back and that’s what I will continue to work at.’

Sue’s work reached a milestone when an exhibition opened at the end of March at Salford Museum and Art Gallery to commemorate the centenary of Harry’s birth. At that gallery in 1948, a panel including LS Lowry selected one of Harry’s paintings, Landscape near Hayfield, to appear in their Local Artists exhibition.

‘It was an emotional moment when the exhibition opened, I’d expected to be a blubbering idiot. There were people there who knew him and people who have some of his work. There have been exhibitions before but this was extra special because we were walking through the same doors as Harry and Susie in 1948.’

Harry was born in the Longsight area of Manchester in 1915 and knew from an early age he wanted to paint but he was repeatedly told to get a proper job and after his father died, Harry moved to London in the 1930s to study architecture. The city though was full of artists, many of whom had fled Europe as the threat of war increased.

He spent much of his spare time touring the capital’s galleries and having met a number of artists at exhibitions including the first Surrealist art show in the country, his determination to join their ranks hardened.

Although Harry had had no formal art training – he did attend occasional classes in Manchester and Salford in his youth – he began to experiment with techniques and styles but all his early work was destroyed in a bombing raid.

In 1942, Harry married Eleanor Maden from Rawtenstall – known as Susie – and after the war the couple moved to Hayfield in the Peak District where he began to paint in earnest.

After the 1948 exhibition in Salford, the couple moved to Cornwall and, in the early 1960s, to London where Harry’s star really began to rise. He exhibited his work and was reviewed in national newspapers and art journals, but with the rise of Pop Art and a growing sense of disillusionment with the British art scene Harry and Susie moved to France where they believed his work would be taken more seriously.

They settled in Provence where Harry created work that was exhibited across Europe and he was working on a major show in Paris right up until his death in 1985. Susie returned to England but couldn’t bear to unpack her husband’s paintings and they remained in storage until her death in 1997. Today, some of Harry’s pictures can be found for sale, normally for under £1,000.

Sue added: ‘Unbeknown to us Susie had all his art packed away in the house. We brought it all back and started to unpack it and it was such a revelation to me.

‘It almost spoke to me, I can’t explain it. I certainly wasn’t going to just put it in the loft so I started researching Harry’s life and work.

‘Reading his diaries, it’s clear that he was so driven – he had to paint and to pursue whatever it was that drove that need.’

The research was a pleasant distraction for Sue who had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. ‘It has been a labour of love and it kept me going while I was going through all the treatment at Christie’s,’ she said.

Now fully recovered, Sue, a former florist, has her uncle’s diaries and notebooks as well as many hundreds of his paintings, but many more were given away or loaned to friends when Harry didn’t have room to store them all.

And Sue, who is now 65 and lives in Glossop, said: ‘People have contacted me to say they have got some of his work. It is so intriguing and although much has been revealed along the way, I know that there are some mysteries that will never be solved.

‘It has been as though someone took me by the hand and led me in this direction. I don’t really know where it will lead but I just want his name to be established in the British art scene.’ w

One Needs More Than Paint, A Centenary exhibition Of Harry Ousey, runs until July 5 at Salford Art Gallery.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Lancashire Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Lancashire Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Lancashire Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Friday, November 16, 2018

With the West Pennine Moors and the summits of Rivington Pike and Winter Hill right on its doorstp, Bolton has plenty of options for walkers.

Read more
Bolton
Monday, November 12, 2018

Lytham Hall was the spectacular setting for a glittering weekend of steam engines, tractors, cars and family fun.

Read more

Barrowford is one of Lancashire’s most stylish towns but it also has some quirky tales to tell

Read more

The busy West Lancashire village of Parbold scores highly for natural beauty and community spirit

Read more

The two-and-a-half year initiative to preserve the remains of the copper mines.

Read more
Coniston
Thursday, November 8, 2018

Books by Lancashire writer Paula Daly are being filmed in the Lakes by the Broadchurch team for a six-part TV drama starring Rochdale’s Anna Friel

Read more
Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Fact and fiction merge to create a tale of murder and kidnap in a novel based on Rufford Old Hall by National Trust volunteer Margaret Lambert

Read more

Liverpool has always buzzed, even in its darker days, but today it’s booming, and underpinning the resurgence are institutions with roots deep in the Merseyside soil

Read more
Liverpool
Friday, November 2, 2018

With carpets of damp fallen leaves and rotting deadwood covering woodlands, autumn is the time when fungi of all shapes and sizes thrive. The Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Molly Toal explores the mushroom kingdom.

Read more
Thursday, November 1, 2018

An ancient system for training troops in the use of the longbow has been revived in Lancashire

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

John Lenehan grabs his broomstick and takes us on a journey through some of Lancashire’s loveliest countryside.

Read more
Ribble Valley Walks Pendle Hill
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Canicross is one of the fastest growing sports and it has arrived in the Lake District. Irene Rothery reports

Read more
Dogs Lake District Walks

Having 10,000 students on the doorstep is helping this West Lancashire town centre to thrive

Read more

In 1972, a hoard of ancient silver coins was discovered in Prestwich. These days, they’re hoping to strike gold with an unbeatable mix of community, creativity and independent shops but for one craftsperson, silver is still the way to go.

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy



Subscribe or buy a mag today

Local Business Directory

Property Search