Lawrence Toynbee

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The Independent Online

Lawrence Leifchild Toynbee, painter and teacher: born London 22 December 1922; married 1945 Jean Asquith (six daughters): died Malton, North Yorkshire 3 January 2002.

Lawrence Toynbee was a fine all-round painter of sportsmen, landscapes and portraits. His pictures of cricket, rugby, squash and more obscure pursuits like Real Tennis are rare in being true to how the game was played while aesthetically making no compromise.

"Toynbee was probably the leading artist in recent times to specialise in cricket," says Stephen Green, curator at Lord's cricket ground. "He knew how to play games." Toynbee was a member of the MCC, and Lord's has a fine collection of his work, of which Hit to Leg and his charming painting of the Oxford University ground, Cricket in the Parks, Oxford, are notable examples.

Born in London in 1922, Lawrence Toynbee came from a singular lineage. His father was the historian Arnold Toynbee, author of the monumental A Study of History and a Companion of Honour. Lawrence's portrait of him is in the collection of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, where he was director of studies. Lawrence's mother was Rosalind Murray, eldest daughter of Gilbert Murray, the classical scholar and poet, Professor of Greek at Glasgow and Oxford universities, for many years chairman of the League of Nations Union, and a member of the Order of Merit. Lawrence's portrait of him is held by the National Portrait Gallery.

Lawrence had two older brothers, whose careers directly reflected the family background. Philip was a novelist with a strong interest in politics, having been Communist President of the Union at Oxford. Anthony served abroad in the consular service before committing suicide in his mid-twenties.

There appears to have been no resistance to Lawrence's becoming a painter, for which there was a distinguished family precedent. Rosalind Murray was the eldest granddaughter of Lady Carlisle, the wife of George James Howard, ninth Earl of Carlisle, a prolific landscape painter. He was a friend of the Pre-Raphaelites and Chairman of the Trustees of the National Gallery and for many years lived at Castle Howard.

After Ampleforth College, in Yorkshire, Lawrence attended the Ruskin School of Drawing, at Oxford, whose Master was Albert Rutherston. His other teachers included Randolph Schwabe, Percy Horton, Rodrigo Moynihan and Kenneth Rowntree, all notable practising, exhibiting artists.

Lawrence Toynbee became art master at St Edward's School for Boys, in Oxford, also teaching at Oxford Technical College and at the Ruskin School. One disappointment was that, not having obtained the Diploma in Art and Design, he could not teach senior students. In 1945, he married Jean Asquith, whose father was Arthur, the third son of Herbert Asquith, the former Liberal prime minister. They had six daughters.

From his time at Ampleforth, Toynbee had proved himself to be a good all-round sportsman. He was to play cricket for Oxford University, although he did not get a Blue, as well as rugby, tennis, squash and golf. "He was also a passionate railway enthusiast, and when young painted the days of steam," says his daughter Rosalind. Toynbee's pleasant, unassuming manner came in useful here. "He made friends with all the drivers and they allowed him to ride on the footplate up to London. He went on taking railway magazines right up to the end."

Toynbee began to get noted as an exhibitor in the 1960s, with a run of shows at the Leicester Galleries in London. By the mid-1960s, he had achieved his ambition to live again in Yorkshire, made possible when he inherited the hamlet of Ganthorpe, near Castle Howard: a house, two farms and five cottages.

This did not prevent him from teaching at Morley College, in London, to which he would commute weekly, putting up at a friend's flat for several days. Toynbee also ran the Morley Gallery, organising some of its most enterprising shows, including one of pictures from Castle Howard.

When he retired from Morley to live full-time at Ganthorpe, Toynbee taught for a few years at Bradford College of Art, and also at Ampleforth. He had continued to play cricket, until a bad back made it difficult for him to bowl, always his strongest feature. He appeared for I Zingari, the Yorkshire Gentlemen and the late Duke of Norfolk's XI. When he was unable to play cricket, he concentrated on golf.

As long as he could, before strokes incapacitated him, he continued to paint: more sporting pictures and the countryside around Castle Howard, elsewhere in England and abroad. His pictures were shown in London at the Mayor Gallery and Agnew's; the Fine Art Society gave him several exhibitions. His last London solo show there, in 1989, included some of Toynbee's best and most characteristic work.

David Buckman