With regret, we share the sad news that Ann Le Bas NEAC RE died on 4 January 2020 at the age of 96. Ann was elected to the New English Art Club in 1972 and was an active member for nearly fifty years, earning the friendship and admiration of her fellow NEAC members . . .
"What a considerable individual she was," remembers Maurice Sheppard.
"From my earlier life, I can remember her wise counsel during my period as Vice President and then President of the Royal Watercolour Society. She could see what would be good for members of her society, the RE, but she had the capacity to reach out and assist her President, Harry Eccleston to move the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers forward with our joint project – the Bankside Gallery.
"Her fine draughtsmanship she applied to watercolour, oil and etching. Etching, and the press, is a distinctly physical activity, requiring many hours of steady work. She conquered all and I admired her real stamina which all appears in her work.
"The news [of her passing] brought a real sadness to my heart, which we all feel - when we lose a true comrade."
Ann was born in Camberley, Surrey in 1923. In 1929, she moved to Exmoor with her father to the village of Winsford where she lived for the rest of her long life. Ann went to West Heath School in Kent and in 1945, after the war had ended, Ann’s talent was recognised - studying at the City & Guilds of London Art School under A. R. Middleton Todd RA RWS RE NEAC, Rodney Burn RA NEAC and Henry Wilkinson RE ARCA who taught her engraving.
Ann had a technical skill and understanding of engraving, etching and aquatint that is rare. She made prints that reflect on observation of her surroundings, whether it be of a stand of beech trees, a dilapidated barn, an alpine pass, a Venetian sunrise, a saw mill, ducks, cows, sheep . . . all beautifully convincing in the bringing together of knowledge, technique and sympathy for the subject. In her paintings, Ann used watercolour and oils, specialising in landscapes of Exmoor, still life and interiors, as well as studies made abroad. She never had any desire to make a statement about her work, believing it should speak for itself.
In 1960, Ann was elected to the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers, now known as the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers (RE). In 1972, she was elected to the New English Art Club. In 1969, she was elected to the Art Workers Guild and from 1995-1999 was Master of the Somerset Guild of Craftsmen.
"I remember as a new member [of the New English Art Club] in 1980 how welcoming she was and how hard she worked on the committee for several years. She will be missed by all who knew her." Diana Calvert
"She was as a devoted member and, besides exhibiting, cooked over 100 sausages on a Baby Belling in batches in her London flat - carrying them all in shopping bags on the tube for the twenty years while I was running the lunch! [at the NEAC Annual Exhibition]" Mary Jackson
Her work has been exhibited widely, including at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and New English Art Club Annual Exhibition. She undertook various commissions including the National Trust Foundation for Art, the Bishop of Bath & Wells. She has prints in the Ashmolean permanent collection and is also represented in the Fitzwilliam Museum, as well as in numerous private collections.
For over 25 years, Ann held an Open Studio with Somerset Art Week where visitors could see her work and, whilst enjoying it, ask questions about how a print is made, the tools used and the stages gone through along the creative path. Ann also played a vital role in her local community in supporting projects and people in need of help and advice.
NEAC President Peter Brown recalls, "I always looked forward to seeing Ann at the NEAC Critics' Lunch having made her way from deepest Somerset. Her smiling face would accompany a jovial greeting. She was warm, sharp, entertaining and wonderfully engaging. We will all miss a very dear friend."
Many thanks to Hilary Adair for the biographical information contained in this article.