Obituary: Grace Golden

Grace Golden, painter and illustrator: born London 1904; died London 3 June 1993.

GRACE GOLDEN was born in London and lived and worked there as a painter and illustrator all her industrious life. Because in much of her work she made the teeming life of the city her subject, recording countless details of the place and its people with an insider's empathy and understanding, it is appropriate and reassuring that a considerable collection, including hundreds of the remarkable pencil sketches she made 'just for reference', is now cared for at the Museum of London.

I first met Grace some 15 years ago at the South London Art Gallery, where a mutual friend, the then curator Kenneth Sharpe, had organised a large retrospective exhibition of her pictures. This show was timely because it achieved for Grace at the end of her career something of the critical recognition that had been denied her during the decades during which she had laboured as a poorly paid illustrator for some of the general-interest magazines that flourished in the days before television.

Such work must have been hard and demanding, often requiring, at little notice, hours of research into an historical period to ensure accuracy of detail, or lengthy attendance at a particular event with the purpose of producing a line illustration of a full-colour cover picture within a few hours. It did, however, somehow accord with Grace's intense curiosity, fascination with the factual details of the past and the present, and her wonderfully direct way of transcribing what she saw into fine, near-calligraphic drawings.

If sometimes, not surprisingly, the printed result looks contrived and overworked, the preliminary sketches are usually little miracles of sharp observation. Looking, for instance, at a random selection of the notebook sketches acquired for the Museum of London, one can vividly recapture the dancers' gyrations on the floor of a night club, sometime in the 1930s; the high-stepping action of a draught horse, paraded for sale at the old Agricultural Hall; the practised movements of a girl lathe-operator in a wartime factory, her 'snood'-dressed hair, as well as the intricacies of the machine, carefully noted; or the weariness of two shoppers, 'up West' for the day, resting their feet whild refreshing themselves with tea and toast at a Lyon's Corner House.

Grace Golden's draughtsmanship, honed to immediate practical purposes, is both informative and evocative. No stock-in-trade manner or affectation of style obtrudes to prevent us from seeing what she saw or being interested in what interested her. We must be grateful that she saw and was interested in so much.

Because Golden's enthusiasms (and, it must be said, her dislikes) were numerous and energetically followed, she developed a wide circle of like-minded friends. A member of the Society of Theatre Research for many years, she was also, during its less certain days, an honorary archivist for the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre project, now nearing completion on the South Bank. More recently, she was a knowledgeable 'regular' at the 'Made in London' film seasons at the Museum of London, where her jaunty beret became a familiar feature of the third row. As we became better acquainted, she took to searching through her immense, overflowing, files of notes and cuttings for anything that might help me in my own researches - dismissing her thoughtfulness and generosity with 'Don't suppose I'll need that again, will I?'

Had she been born into a later generation, who knows how Grace Golden's remarkable talent might have developed and what opportunities might have come her way? As it is, to many who knew her whe was an unforgettable personality, and a bit of a heroine.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific