About Edna Lumb

EDNA LUMB (1931 - 1992) was born in Leeds during the Depression and her early years were restricted and school a nightmare. Her drawing ability and determination won her a series of scholarships, first to Junior Art School and then 5 years at the prestigious Leeds College of Art. When after ll years of teaching drudgery she had stocked up enough cash and confidence to go freelance professional, her life took off. She worked all the hours God gave - in France, in Switzerland, all across the North of England, in oils, in watercolour, in ink and etched line, always responding to the industrial landscape wherever she saw it.

A chance to follow the airborne aid programme to Biafra in 1969 fixed her painting propensities for good. She became expert in catching machines in motion in a refined watercolour technique. 'From outdoors I came indoors .. ' as she put it. She was invited to paint the last great engines of steam power - in the cotton mills, on the railways, the nodding beam-engine pumps for mines and drainage. It was inconceivable that this vanishing world should leave no trace. Lumb's amazing paintings of 'the giant friendly monsters'at the heart of this world were a revelation. Ellenroad Ring Mill in Lancashire with a particularly fine engine house, huge paired engines and lofty rope-race driving five floors of machinery merited a series of 25 large works - all snapped up on first exhibition.

Crowning the achievement of this period was the series carried out under great difficulties showing Tower Bridge's original hydraulic steam machinery. Along with its associated plant this had lifted the massive bascules over the shipping channel for nearly a century without falter. It was was being stripped out and survives today principally in Lumb's 24 monumental paintings. These should have stayed together as a national collection after their exhibition at the Science Museum. They did not. Lumb systematically exhibited her work as she progressed. From 1967 she held at least a one-man show a year. In 1974 there were four, all near sell-outs.

For much of her painting career Edna Lumb lived like a nomad in pursuit of her subject and when asked her address she gave her car-registration number. For her last decade - apart from two more expeditions to Africa - she was based in London with her own studio. Many commissions and projects were concerned with London and such of its special features as struck the artist - Lumb's London.

She was barely 60 when she died at the height of her artistic powers and still with a huge programme of work planned. She knew for three years there was no recovery from her illness though she did not know how long she would last. Her main asset was her unsold work and she had the happy idea of putting this considerable body of material towards funding a Travel Prize for students at her old art college in Leeds. She had won such a prize herself and it made a profound impact. Now she had the means to perpetuate the gift it had been to her. The Edna Lumb Artistic Trust (ELAT) was established by her will to administer sales for the fund. So, every purchase goes to stimulating the art of tomorrow.

Self portrait (1965)
oil on canvas                      NFS