Norman Neasom: Artist and inspirational teacher whose work was rooted in the English landscape

The artist Norman Neasom was born near Redditch in Worcestershire and spent nearly all his life in the area. He drew and painted deeply-observed landscapes of England and Wales together with figures and animals in their environment. What mattered, he said, was what he felt about a subject and had the urge to express: every leaf on a picture must be felt. "If I don't feel I don't do,", he said. At heart he was an illustrator and he liked looking at the amusing side of life: "If that comes through to the viewer then I am happy." Neasom's was a benign, pastoral vision in a deeply English tradition.

Norman Neasom was born in 1915 and grew up on Birchale Farm on the outskirts of Redditch. His father and an uncle leased adjoining farms, employing 18 men between them. The farm-house dated from the 1700s, its half-timbered barn constructed with timbers which had come from Bordsley Abbey after its dissolution. His first memory dated to October 1917 during the First World War: one night he was carried into his parent's bedroom to see the searchlights over Birmingham through the lattice windows of the farmhouse as a German Zeppelin tried to bomb the Austin motor works.

From a very early age he loved to draw on any scraps of paper he could find – it was a habit he continued all his life. After leaving Redditch County High School in 1931 at the age of 16, with the encouragement of his father he gained a place at the Birmingham College of Arts and Crafts. Here he studied under Bernard Fleetwood Walker, Harold Holden, Henry Sands, Michael Fletcher and William Colley. They were all professional artists and Neasom always regarded them as having provided an excellent foundation for his own career.

During the Second World War Neasom worked on the family farm – farming was a reserved occupation. He was also with St John's Ambulance and did Civil Defence duty at night. Once again the farm lay on the flight path for Birmingham; one night a German bomber dropped a full load of incendiary bombs across their land up to the walls of the outbuildings. The whole farm was bathed in white light and there were shells scattered across the fields.

Neasom worked briefly in London as an illustrator for magazines such as Punch but on the day the war ended he received a letter from Birmingham inviting him back to join the teaching staff of his former college. Discovering that his students worked better if he inspired them with a theme, he took groups of student artists to locations throughout the city such as Elmdon Aerodrome, the Gas Street Basin and Ansells Brewery in Aston. He believed it helped give the young artists, who were often ex-servicemen, a purpose to draw.

He stayed at Birmingham for eight years until in 1953 he moved to a teaching post at Redditch School of Art. Subsequently he became head of department where he remained until his retirement in 1979.

Neasom's own pictures – he worked primarily in watercolour – were based entirely on observational drawings and written notes, and he created from sketchbooks scenes that had captured his imagination using characters he had perhaps seen in a local pub or supermarket. Through drawing, he said, one learns so much: form, colour, light and shade and composition. A sensitivity to these qualities is evident in his work.

After his retirement he did a large amount of book illustration as well as historical map and broadsheet drawing. His work is in the permanent collections of Her Majesty the Queen, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Royal Watercolour Society, Royal Birmingham Society of Artists and the West Midlands Arts Council. It was also was bought by many enthusiastic private collectors. In 1947 Neasom was elected to the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists and in 1978 to the Royal Watercolour Society. He was also an Honorary Member of the Stratford on Avon Art Society.

A man of great personal kindness and courtesy, he remained essentially a countryman (although he also loved sailing and founded the Redditch Sailing Club). The farm where he was brought up however is no longer a working farm and the land has been developed into housing estates. After years of neglect the farmhouse and barn, which are listed buildings, are now used as a local community centre.

Neasom's wife, Jessie, predeceased him. They had met during the war "through a haze of burning toast" when she was still only 15 and working in a Civil Defence canteen.

Simon Fenwick

Norman Neasom, artist and illustrator, born Brockhill Lane near Redditch, Worcestershire, 7 November 1915; married 1948 Jessie Davis (died 1995; two daughters); died Redditch 22 February 2010.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
tv

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
Life and Style
i100

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher Thetford Secondary

£110 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Cambridge: An Academy based in Thetfor...

Year 1 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to work at ...

Data Analyst / Marketing Database Analyst

£24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Analyst – 2 year fixed term contract – Kent – Circa £55k

£45000 - £55000 Per Annum 31 days holiday, pension, healthcare, annual bonus: ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week