Art exhibition: Mosaics and Muses at Burgh House by Joy Fleischmann and Trata Maria Drescha
PUBLISHED: 13:27 10 October 2018
Octogenarians who have been friends for sixty years hold a joint exhibition at the Hampstead Museum and Art Gallery
Trata Maria Drescha and Joy Fleischmann met in 1958 on the banks of Loch Ness.
The mosaic artist was collaborating with Joy’s sculptor husband on the stations of the cross for the cathedral at Fort Augustus.
Sixty years on, the pair are still friends and now have a joint exhibition at Burgh House.
Mosaics and Muses features both Trata’s remarkable mosaic work and Fleischmann’s nude life drawings, completed in her historic St John’s Wood studio.
“I remember Trata had this accent, she came from Graz where my late husband studied wood-carving, and she knew the carver who had taught him,” recalls Joy.
“We had similar interests, we both loved ballet, and we formed quite a friendship even though we are very different. I am a worrier while she doesn’t seem to worry as much.”
Trata, who is about to celebrate her 90th birthday, went on to work with Arthur Fleischmann for three decades, completing work in churches all over the UK including the Chapel of Unity in Coventry Cathedral and a co-commision of Dame Edna Everage which appears in the show.
“It’s a celebration for Trata’s birthday and I’m really pleased we have done this exhibition but I will never to it again, it was such hard work,” adds Joy.
Bratislava-born Arthur Fleischmann was in his late 30s and living in Vienna when he saw it was becoming dangerous for Jewish artists like himself.
“He realised how bad things were and in 1937 he arranged an exhibition in South Africa which also enabled many other artists to get out of Vienna and Bratislava,” explains Joy.
After travelling widely, Arthur spent the war in Australia where he became a celebrated sculptor with numerous public commissions.
But on a visit to London in the mid 1950s, he met Joy.
“It was the most extraordinary thing,” she says. “I came from Shropshire to study at St Martin’s. I was a young, naïve girl who hadn’t been to London before and I met him the first week. I had never met a sculptor before, he was from Europe, and this extraordinary person with tremendous knowledge and energy.”
In 1958, the pair bought their home in Carlton Hill which had a studio that was purpose-designed by previous occupant the sculptor Sir George Frampton.
Joy, who raised their son Dominique while running the house and working as Arthur’s chauffeur and assistant says.
“It’s a very historic place, George Frampton created the Peter Pan memorial in Hyde Park in this room. After my husband died I thought ‘I am not going to rent his studio to another sculptor’, I wanted to use this beautiful space and bring it alive.”
During the years they were married Joy stopped pursuing her own art because she was too busy working as Arthur’s assistant.
But after his death in 1990 she began running life drawing classes, which for 25 years have brought a parade of students to St John’s Wood.
“We’ve had a big cross section of ages and classes, from Barry Humphries who is a very good artist, to students and even Eduardo Paolozzi.
“I provide the model and the space and sometimes we have a tutor. It’s been extremely interesting, I have made some very nice friendships.”
Trata also fled Vienna in the run up to World War II, leaving as a child on the Kindertransport and finding sanctuary in the UK.
After studying painting at the Royal Academy School, she returned to Vienna to study frescoes which inspired her to become a mosaicist.
Joy adds: “Although we are not overlapping, my life drawings and her mosaics are quite a good combination. We have kept it simple and elegant and in a strange way it kind of goes together.”
Mosaics and Muses runs at Burgh House until October 14.Information at: burghhouse.org.uk