Paul Benedict Brand



Paul Benedict Brand, the eldest of five children, was born on 14th October, 1916 into a Catholic family in Glasgow.  As his father was in the army the family moved frequently and his early schooling was in London, Merseyside and the Isle of Man. To take up a scholarship to St. Mary’s College, Great Crosby, he undertook a 26-mile daily round cycle ride from his home. Despite leaving with School Certificate and Northern Universities Matriculation in 1933, the family could not afford to send him to university.

Paul with brothers Andrew and Anthony [R – L], c. 1930.

Paul in Hibbaniya, c. 1938

Service in the armed forces

Paul in Hibbaniya, c. 1938

During the Depression jobs were hard to find and the armed forces were recruiting vigorously. Although there is a strong naval background in the Brand family, Paul signed up with the RAF because of his great interest in aeroplanes and making model aircraft from his own designs. After a two-year apprenticeship principally in Milford Haven, Wales, his squadron was sent out to Iraq in 1937 to secure the oil pipe lines. In spite of Hibbanya being described as “the most godforsaken hell-hole in the entire world” by Roald Dahl in his autobiography, ‘Going Solo’, it was a posting that initially allowed Paul to exult in the hot, dry climate as he relished the swimming, sailing, water polo and athletics…

He also undertook several creative endeavours, setting up theatrical productions and taking black and white photographs, which formed the beginning of his career as an artist. But with the outbreak of war in 1939 everything changed and his squadron was stationed in Egypt. It is likely that they were involved in the battle for the desert – though it is not known what part Paul played as never talked about his experience, refusing his medals, he said because ‘those that deserved them weren’t there to receive them’. After two years there and in the Sudan, they were repatriated, entailing a long voyage by troop ship round the Cape and across to the western Atlantic to avoid German U-boats.

He married Dorothy in 1942 and they had three children, Paul, Michael and Judith. Sadly, things did not work out, and after four more years’ service in England, the onset of clinical depression resulted in a discharge from the RAF in 1946 with a grant to study Art. The immediate post-war years saw Paul leave the camera behind and devote himself to acquiring technique, whilst working part-time as a night watchman at Westminster Abbey and during the 1948 London Olympics. After attending three art schools, and a teaching course at the University of London he finally landed a job as art teacher at Canterbury Technical Modern School at Morden, Surrey.

The New Start

Although now an art teacher he still took time to study and practice his own work. He submitted works to London Societies such as the R.B.A. and R.O.I. and also was associated with the Society for Education through Art, attending the Frenet conference at Mulhouse on their behalf. He found time to attend evening and part time courses at Central School of Art and the University of Education and Navigation at Dovercourt.

After leaving Canterbury School, where he had introduced Pottery and experimental media into the curriculum, he had a part time job as Art Therapist at Benenden Chest Hospital, where he designed the new Art and Pottery centre. Concurrently he lectured in Art History at Battersea College of Technology, ultimately introducing practical drawing and painting classes for their Liberal Studies.

He married Barbara, youngest daughter of a classicist, in 1960, and lived on a harbour launch on the Thames, where their first child was born.  After several cold and wet winters, they decided to try their luck in a warmer country and opted for Greece, a painter’s paradise with regard to the light, but also as they both loved the tales of Ancient Greece.

Paul on the jetty, c. 1959

Rowing across the Thames at Isleworth, c. 1959

Greek farm Cart, Malaconda, oil on canvas, 1965, not for sale.

Years in Greece

Greek farm Cart, Malaconda, oil on canvas, 1965, not for sale.

In Greece they lived in Athens, where Paul continued to pot and paint and had his first one-man show in 1966, the year his daughter was born. Moving onto the Island of Evvia (Euboia) Paul undertook many paintings of the locale and the locals. Whilst in Greece he planned the Art Educational/Recreation scheme for Raytheon, in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, designed a water tower for Malaconda, and experimented with “pipe and block” work with particular relation to pre-fabricated housing.

However, in 1967, the Colonels seized power and the future felt very uncertain. Consequently, the family returned to England with all their possessions in a Bedford laundry van. Much of the space was taken up with paintings which formed the subject of an exhibition in Amsterdam, where they stopped on their return.

Return to England

On returning to England, he taught briefly at St. Edmund’s School, Hindhead, and, living nearby, had his own studio and exhibited locally, submitting work to London Societies, including N.E.A.C. and the United Society of Artists.

Teaching evening classes gave him more time to pursue his own creativity and for nearly forty years he painted daily in the studio, becoming increasingly reclusive.   Influences from his life experiences are visible in the works he produced – the influence of the Church, military service and culturally from literature and music.  He was a great observer both of life and of artefact and his travels provided him with an arsenal of material, informing and appearing in his work in some quite surprising ways. His subject matter extended from life in all forms – animals, plants, costumes, textiles, boats, architectural studies, landscapes and portraits to illustrating stories from classical themes from music, theatre and art.

Eucalyptus Trees, Eretria, oil on board, 1971, on loan.

The Feast of the Capulets, oil on board, c. 1968, sold.

Music, myth and legends

He used many legends, myths, and biblical stories as a basis for composition, as countless drawings, sketches and finished paintings show.  His love of the theatre was incorporated in his designs for scenery not only for Amphitryon and other Greek plays, but also Petrouschka as a puppet play. Later he spent a long time researching the stories around “Peer Gynt” to create a work of art.  His love of the music of Berlioz in particular gave rise to several paintings, notably “The Dance of the Capulets” and the “Fantastic Symphony”.

Last work

His last finished work, “American Diplomacy” in oil, acrylic and charcoal, on canvas, using the basic form of the hexagon as a starting point, was a cry from the heart. His time in Iraq so many years before had made a great impression on him.  Once before he had made a poster connected with the war in Uganda, but politics was rarely visible in his work.  But now to see and understand the devastation caused by the “Iraq War” was too much and he protested in the only way he could.

In 2005 Paul suffered a heart attack after which he did not paint, and from which he didn’t fully recover.  Even before this he found it difficult to explain his purpose, but several times he said that his aim was for people to see something – preferably beautiful – in a picture that wasn’t about ‘likeness’ (which he felt was the work of the camera), but about how paint is used in the construction of an image. 

Many of the paintings included in the collection on this website have not been publicly shown, some have not yet been framed.  It is time that they graced the walls of those who value them and he would have liked nothing more than to know that the works are being seen and enjoyed.  Please do get in touch if you would like further information or to arrange a viewing.

‘My Guernica’ or ‘American Diplomacy’, oil on canvas, 2004