Dora Holzhandler underlines how kindness can bring happiness

Some of Holzhandler’s paintings will go on display in Belsize Village

When artist Dora Holzhandler’s family moved from Paris to London in the late 1930s, she did not like the atmosphere, she spoke not a word of English and she was baffled by times tables in school, believing “one times one is one, two times one is two” to be a hymn the children were supposed to learn. In her childhood, Holzhandler learned to express herself through painting and has been doing so ever since.

“Children like painting,” Holzhandler says. “It gives them an idea of who they are, their being, as it were, something to relate to. They make a picture, and they can relate to it so I think if you look at art, you might find a little bottom of a lot. The artist wants to relate.”

Some of Holzhandler’s paintings, which she says have been described by some as na�ve or primitive, focus on the memories of her childhood, growing up in a religious Jewish family. Some focus on lovers, some on mothers and children walking through parks and some on children, but most focus on one idea: happiness.

“I think I’m quoting maybe the Dalai Lama but the need for good heart [is what I’m trying to communicate with my audience],” Mrs Holzhandler says. “When you have a good, kind heart, there’s moments of great happiness somehow. So if you have an example of a mother and child or lovers, the happiness is the kind with feeling, I think. So maybe I want to communicate that to people that you don’t have to look very far, you just have to look at your state of mind, really.”

Holzhandler, now 84, has kept working to share her happiness with the world and continues to paint, usually one to two hours a day. She is now showing works at Hampstead’s Sylvester Fine Art gallery. The free exhibition runs until mid-December in association with the Goldmark Gallery. Opening hours are Wednesday to Saturday 11am to 6pm and Sunday 2pm to 5pm.