Joan Warburton 1920-1996

Joan 'Maudie' Warburton was born in 1920. Her father retired from the army in 1921 to the outskirts of Colchester, moving further into the countryside in 1925 to a sixteenth century farmhouse. Hunt balls, sherry parties, a finishing school in Belgium and presentation at Court were supposed to set Joan Warburton firmly on the road to an upper-middle class conventional future. She had been introduced to the atelier of Oswald Poreau at finishing school and decided that painting was something she wanted to take seriously. The family doctor effected an introduction to Cedric Morris and she started as a student in 1937.
She, like many of the students, became a confirmed horticultural enthusiast. Her skills in this area provided her with much of her future subject matter. The school was a setting in which she flourished, finding the company at the school congenial and the frequent lively parties a revelation.

Although she signed up for war work in 1940 (WRENS, an arms factory and the Red Cross Ambulance Corps) she remained a committed visitor to Benton End. While working for the Red Cross she met Peter O'Malley who had been invalided out of the Army to a hospital in Wales. They married in 1945.

Joan Warburton and Peter O'Malley started their married life in a bed-sitter in Harcourt Terrace, London. She exhibited in mixed shows such as the Royal Academy, Leicester Galleries and Women's International and had three solo exhibitions.

In 1969 Peter decided to retire from the Royal College and, given a free hand as to where to settle, Joan Warburton decided to return to "Cedric country". She bought a house, an old wig-maker's shop, in Stoke by Nayland and filled the garden with plants and the shop-part of the house with succulents. Back problems had by this time caused her to give up painting in oil - standing to paint at an easel was impossible, but she worked with great energy in watercolour and gouache. She mounted ten successful solo exhibitions over the following twenty years. Peter died in 1994 after a debilitating illness and she died of cancer in 1996. Unlike some of the students, such as Lucy Harwood, Joan Warburton did not become a permanent fixture at Benton End, but it was central to her life and way of looking at the world. This exhibition of her work, together with that of some of the other visitors and students, gives a flavour of that world and how it was.