Joash Woodrow - Background


Self Portrait

In 2001 a collection of several thousand drawings, paintings and sculpture were discovered in a small terraced house in Leeds, England. The artist Joash Woodrow was previously unknown to the artworld.

Born in Leeds in 1927, Joash was one of seven sons and two daughters. In the early 1900’s his father and mother had left Poland to live in Boston, USA, before eventually moving to Leeds. Although times were hard Joashs mother and father worked long hours, encouraging their children to fulfil their ambitions. Three of the brothers led highly distinguished academic careers, with Joash studying at the Royal College of Art (1950-53) alongside fellow students Frank Auerbach, Peter Blake and Dennis Creffield. His lecturers Ruskin Spear, Carel Weight, and Robert Buhler all described Joash as having considerable talent, maturity and individuality with a unique style. Rodrigo Moynihan stated that: “His painting has a mature richness of colour and expression. He is immensely serious and hard working and, I feel, will be among the few students who will make a name for himself...

Shortly after leaving the RCA Joash suffered a nervous breakdown, returning to Leeds to live with his mother and brother, Israel. Following the death of his mother in 1962 and Israel in 1978, Joash’s life became increasingly consumed with his work, making art from anything and everything that came to hand. Every room in his house became a studio space with virtually all of his furniture broken up, to be re-invented as pieces of sculpture. The paintings themselves were were often executed on any material that came to hand - from coal and potato sacking, to food packaging and advertising boards. His own vast collection of art books surrounded him as he painted.

During the 1990’s Joash's health began to decline, his family becoming increasingly worried about their brothers welfare and Joash's determination to retain his independence. In 1999 Joash narrowly escaped from a fire at his home. Although he returned to the house immediately afterwards the inevitable happened and with his health swiftly deteriorating Joash was soon admitted to hospital suffering from a serious infection. Following several months treatment it became clear that Joash would be unable to live on his own and arrangements were made for him to move to sheltered accommodation.

Joash Woodrow lived at Heathlands Village, Prestwich, up until his death on 15th February 2006.