Maurice Edgar Connell (1921-2020)
Born in South London to musical and theatrical parents, Maurice grew up singing and performing. He was 18 when war broke out. He joined the Air Force and was sent to Canada to train as a pilot. However, his eyesight was not considered good enough for the Air Force, he came home and joined the army. He was initially in tanks in Italy and North Africa and during this time he met the Cornish artist George Lambourn. It was a meeting that proved pivotal in his life. Lambourn ran the 'Army Decorating Section' which followed the allied armies, setting up and decorating canteens, theatres, libraries and rest centres. Between 1942 and 46, Lambourn's 'private army' followed the war through Italy, North Africa and South Austria. The unit was manned by POWs and soldiers who were no longer mentally fit for active service, and it provided a valuable therapeutic serice.
He and Lambourn maintained a lifelong friendship and prior to his marriage in 1967, Maurice would regularly hitchhike to Cornwall to visit. His creative and artistic experience during the war led him to art school; Woolwich and the Central School of Art, where he was taught by the likes of Keith Vaughan, Paolozzi, and Quentin Crisp was his life model. For the next 20 years he worked in theatre, opera and ballet as a stage manager, creating sets, props, costumes or anything that was required, for companies like the Sadlers Wells Ballet, Glyndebourne, the Royal Opera House and various others. A perfectionist, he could turn his hand to anything and make it beautiful. He married late in life and lived quietly in Hertfordshire, teaching pottery and woodwork and working with learning disabled teenagers prior to his retirement.
Although he constantly drew, painted and was never without a sketchbook, Maurice rarely exhibited or sold his work. He drew to please himself or to give to friends and family. Upon his death last year at the ripe old age of 98, he left a great body of work, in many mediums, a testament to a thoroughly creative life.