Golders Green Holocaust survivor’s paintings to go on sale

PUBLISHED: 16:59 01 June 2017 | UPDATED: 17:10 01 June 2017

Lily Freeman whose daughter Ruth is selling her paintings in an effort to help realise her mother's ambition to be a famous artist.

Lily Freeman whose daughter Ruth is selling her paintings in an effort to help realise her mother's ambition to be a famous artist.


The daughter of a Holocaust survivor hopes to realise her mother’s dying ambition to become a famous artist.

Detail from Lily's painting of her parents being shot and buried in a mass grave during the Holocaust.Detail from Lily's painting of her parents being shot and buried in a mass grave during the Holocaust.

Ruth Freeman’s mother Lily – an Austrian Jew – fled her native country arriving alone in Holland in 1938 with just £10 in her pocket.

After resettling in London she married and set up her own food import company before turning her back on business to become a painter, training at the Arthur Segal School in Hampstead.

In July last year Lily died of pneumonia aged 96, but not before leaving Ruth 700 of her oil and watercolour paintings following her final exhibition in 2009. Now the mostly land and cityscapes will go on sale in a series of open house events at Lily’s home in Golders Green.

“I thought to myself what better way of giving her a tribute and publicising her work,” Ruth said. “I’m doing exactly what she wanted.

“I’m not a busineswoman so I’m so glad I was able to get the sale together. I have to do justice by her as the paintings are her life’s work,” she added.

But two pieces won’t go on sale because of Ruth’s attachment to them - one a landscape of trees in the Austrian mountains and another more sinister piece depicting the death of Lily’s parents Emma and Moritz – a socialite and an army general – shot and dumped in a mass grave by the Nazis.

“As a painting it just didn’t work. She wouldn’t let herself paint all the emotions. It just didn’t express the horror,” Ruth said.

According to Ruth, her mother felt guilty all her life because she managed to escape, but her parents didn’t with Moritz believing they would be safe under Hitler’s regime given his army position. In spite of Lily offering the taxi fare to bring them to Holland, her parents remained behind.

Ruth said: “She got a letter back from them asking what they should do with the family silver. They just didn’t understand.”

She describes Lily – who believed in reincarnation – as a “strong survivor” not only because of the Holocaust but also an unhappy childhood with her father’s affair putting a strain on his marriage.

“In her heart she wanted desperately to become famous. Always trying to prove herself. That’s why she exhibited. She had to be successful,” Ruth said.

Though full of admiration for her, Ruth’s relationship with Lily wasn’t easy, growing up with a mother who pursued painting as a career in part after noticing how much enjoyment her daughter derived from it.

“It was more like having a sister who always wanted to be better. Before she died we did talk about our relationship. We did understand each other even though we could not get on. Now her paintings tell me what a wonderful person she was,” she confided.

Ruth’s first sale takes place in Dunstan Road this Sunday from 1pm to 5pm. Email for details.

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