Joash Woodrow, circa 1948


Born in Leeds in 1927, Joash Woodrow was one of eight sons and two daughters. His father and mother were of Polish background, marrying in Boston, USA. On moving to Leeds his father worked as a Hebrew scholar and bookseller before finally moving into the textile trade. Joash initially trained at Leeds College of Art after which he served in the army as a cartographer, Egypt 1945 – 1948. Between 1950 – 1953 he studied drawing and painting at the Royal College of Art, his fellow students including Frank Auerbach, Peter Blake and the novelist Len Deighton.

Shortly after graduating from the RCA Joash returned to his home in Chapel Allerton, Leeds where he lived an increasingly solitary life. In 2000, 772 paintings and 3500 drawings were found at his home by Andrew Stewart; Joash having been moved to sheltered accommodation following a period of prolonged poor health. The first ever exhibition of Joash Woodrow’s paintings was held in 2002; representing the first glimpse of the artists output between 1940 and the 1990’s. Since then solo exhibitions have been held at Leeds City Art Gallery, Manchester Art Gallery, the Ben Uri Art Gallery, London, Leeds Metropolitan University Art Gallery and several other University art galleries. His work is held in the collections of Leeds City Art Gallery, Manchester Art Gallery, The Ben Uri, Liverpool University, Hull University, Liverpool Metropolitan University, Pallant House, Chichester. A highly successful exhibition was held at the Fine Art Society, London, in 2009.

Following his death in 2006 extensive obituaries appeared in the Guardian, Telegraph and in the regional press.

Joash Woodrow & Jack Cudworth Leeds College of Art, circa 1945


1942-45 Student at Leeds College of Art

1945-48 National Service, as a cartographer, spent largely in Egypt

1948-50 Returns to The Leeds College of Art to complete his studies in drawing and painting

1950-53 Scholarship to The Royal College of Art, his fellow students and friends including Frank Auerbach, Peter Blake and the novelist Len Deighton. Graduated in 1953. Considered by his lecturers Ruskin Spear, Carel Weight and Robert Buhler to be one of their most promising students. 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….”

1951 Death of his father, Harry (Herzl)

1953-55 Living and working in London (employed in an accountancy practice)

1955 Becomes ill and returns to the family home in Chapel Allerton, Leeds, where he begins to draw and paint the landscape and people around his home.

1960 Visits the Picasso exhibition at the Tate Gallery, London. Also travels to Paris with his nephew Paul.

1961 Death of his mother, Rebecca (Rifka). Following the death of his mother his entire life becomes totally consumed with work, making art from anything and everything that comes to hand; the majority of his furniture broken up to be re-invented as pieces of sculpture.

The Black Post. Oil on board, circa 1985

1965 – 2000

1965 – Prefers an increasingly solitary existence, and from around 1975 his work focuses more on the urban and suburban landscape of Leeds and in particular the nearby allotments which provide the greatest inspiration for him during his later working years.

1995 – A steady decline in Joashs health. He increasingly concentrates on making drawings. In the late 1990’s there is a serious fire at the artists house and the family become increasingly concerned about Joash’s welfare. Joash insists that he remains at the house.

2000 Joash is hospitalised and eventually moved to sheltered accommodation at Heathlands Village, Manchester close to the home of his brother Saul and sister in law, Sylvia.

Image: Saul Woodrow with Joash's paintings in the attic at Allerton Grange Gardens, Leeds)

Rediscovery of the artists collection

2001 Saul and Sylvia Woodrow begin the un-cluttering of the house, with some 3,000 art books sold to a Harrogate bookshop. While browsing through books at the shop the Leeds artist Christopher Wood discovers that several of these books contain pages drawn over by Joash Woodrow. On a visit to Christopher’s studio Andrew Stewart of 108 Fine Art is shown the book, and the following day visits the bookshop where he buys the remaining nine ‘defaced’ books. Having contacted the artists brother Saul, Stewart is invited to visit the house and look at the collection which has until then remained unseen.

The BBC are invited to film the clearance of the house, with the collection being taken to 108 Fine Art in Harrogate where they are catalogued and conserved over the following five years.

Joash Woodrow Exhibition The Fine Art Society, London

2001 – present

2001 – The art critic Nicholas Usherwood visits Harrogate to view the collection and offers to write the introduction to the first exhibition of Joash’s work

2002 – First solo exhibition held at 108 Fine Art, Harrogate. Annual exhibitions of Joash’s work held at 108 since then

2004 – First public art gallery exhibition. ‘Images of Leeds: Landscape Paintings and Drawings’ Leeds City Art Gallery

2005 – His brother Saul takes Joash to view the first retrospective exhibition of his paintings, held at Manchester Art Gallery

2006 – Joash dies at Manchester General Hospital. Buried at Philips Park Cemetery, Manchester

2004 – 2008 Completion of a full catalogue of all known works by the artist. A digital archive of the collection is made available to view through 108 Fine Art – Ongoing programme of conservation of the collection. Several public museum and art gallery exhibitions of his work

2009 – Highly successful selling exhibition at The Fine Art Society, London

2011 – The Resonance of Seclusion. A play based on the life of Joash Woodrow by playwright Liz Postlethwaite. The play previews to a full house at the Whitworth Gallery, Manchester and the following year is performed at The Lowry Centre, before a  successful tour to several other Northern venues

(Image: ‘Joash Woodrow’ at The Fine Art Society 2008)

Young Man Looking Down (Portrait of Gilbert Dubrulle) Oil on canvas, circa 1960

Selected Solo Exhibitions

Retrospective Exhibitions

108 Fine Art. Exhibitions held annually from 2003

The Fine Art Society, Bond Street, London 2009

Leeds Metropolitan University, 2007

Drawings of the North East Coast, Pannett Art Gallery, Whitby, 2007

(Image: Joash Woodrow photographed by John Angerson for the Sunday Times)

Retrospective Exhibition – Works on Paper, Liverpool University Art Gallery, 2007

Retrospective Exhibition – Works on Paper, Hull University Art Gallery, 2006

Manchester Art Gallery, 2005

Ben Uri Gallery, London, 2005

Royal College of Art, London, 2005

Images of Leeds, Leeds City Art Gallery, 2004

Since 2002 annual exhibitions of Joash’s work have been held at 108 Fine Art

Joash Woodrow Photographed by John Angerson, for the Sunday Times 2005

Works in Public Collections

Ben Uri Gallery, London

Leeds City Art Gallery

Manchester Art Gallery

Hull University Art Gallery

Leeds Metropolitan University

Leeds University Art Gallery

Pallant House Gallery, Chichester