- Date of Birth:
- 2 Apr 1904
- Date of Death:
- 3 Jun 1993
Grace Lydia Golden was born in east London on 2 April 1904 to a working-class family. At the age of five, she moved to the City end of Southwark Bridge Road where, from the top window of a five-storey house, she could observe the working Thames river.
Golden lived and worked in London all her life, remaining captivated with the city of her childhood. As an artist, she depicted an extraordinary range of London life in her work.
Golden completed her secondary education at the City of London School for Girls. She went on to study at Chelsea School of Art and the Royal College of Arts, and later the Regent Street Polytechnic.
At the Royal College, training encouraged students to be 'professional' rather than 'vocational'. Wood engraving and book illustration were promoted during these years, and Golden skilfully exploited the medium.
The work Golden produced during her time at the college is regarded as some of her most original. Golden always belittled its importance, saying that students were expected to 'have a bash at everything'. However the works have boldness and humour that Golden later abandoned for a more traditional style in her commissioned book illustrations.
Golden had an extraordinary ability to characterise people, and the human qualities seen in her work are exceptional. The detail in her illustrations, which involved painstaking research, was uncharacteristic of the style at that time.
Golden was able to make a living from her art at a time when it was very difficult for a woman to do so. Yet she always felt she had opted for a second-ranking career in commercial art.
Golden exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1936 and 1940, and later regretted not devoting more time to oil painting. She frequently commented, 'I've wasted my time - I could have been successful and famous if I hadn't worked the way I did.'
Golden's passions were film, theatre and ballet. She was a member of the Hesketh Hubbard Art Society, the society of theatre research, and an honorary archivist for the Shakespeare Globe Theatre project.
Golden was the author and illustrator of the book Old Bankside (1951). She also illustrated The Wonderful Winter, by Marchette Chute (1954), and the section on Theatre and Music in Odham's The Modern Children's Library of Knowledge (1958).
Grace Golden died at the Royal Free Hospital in 1993, aged 89. The Museum of London holds an extensive collection of her works.
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