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Love the Harlequin!

Pip Heywood


Yesterday my wife Ali googled Theyre and came up with various things including Oberon’s Grove. Theyre was my godfather, and we had a friendship I really valued. He and my father, the painter Oliver Heywood, both had flats at Nell Gwynne House in the 40s, my father then marrying my mother Denise and moving to Stroud in Gloucestershire, where I was born, Theyre of course remaining at number 931, up on the top floor, throughout his life.

We have a couple of his paintings on our walls now – one of the ballet pictures, and another of a Japanese shop-keeper. He gave me the Japanese one on a whim one day, as we sat in his tiny flat with portfolios open all over the bed. It was painted on tissue paper that he’d scrunched up and then spread out, giving the surface an interesting texture. Sometime later I reminded him of his gift, and the fact that a couple of years before he’d given me a small wooden Japanese Buddha, which I still have. “Ah!” said Theyre (I can still see his eyes lighting up), “I bought the Buddha from the shopkeeper!” He was such a great raconteur, and as a conversation wove along, he loved those kind of co-incidences.

We had long discussions about art. (I’m more of a film-maker, especially as an editor, working mainly in television documentary.) I was intrigued by the differences of approach between Theyre and my father Oliver – Theyre working at a painting quickly and spontaneously, whereas Oliver was careful and meticulous. I often wish that my son Barney, now 24, had known Theyre. He went to Wimbledon Art School, and has a designer’s eye. He would particularly be interested to find out more about Theyre’s poster work from the 30s. If you happen to have any leads in that direction, we would much appreciate it.

On one visit to Nell Gwynne he told me how he’d not long before been in conversation with the head porter downstairs at Reception, a man who’d spent as many years as Theyre had in the building. He asked Theyre about his little storeroom in the basement – all the flats had them. Theyre had completely forgotten about it. Equipped with the key, he went straight down there, and discovered work that had been gathering dust for decades. When I went soon after, he showed me some things, but no posters that I can recall.

We called Barney’s elder brother, born in 1981, Jack Theyre. His namesake was very pleased. Somewhere (and I can’t find them today!) I have an envelope containing many of Theyre’s postcard-sized paintings. He would send me one every birthday, with a cryptic note on the back, in his beautiful, spidery handwriting.

I visited him soon before his death, bringing some shopping up as he was no longer able to get down to the street. Then after he died, I believe it was his niece who organised a retrospective, at The Chelsea Arts Club. I came with Denise and Ali.

Anyway, please forgive this screed. I just felt so pleased to discover other people who are keeping the memory of that lovely man alive.


Dear Pip,
Thank you so much for this wonderful story and for adding to the "Theyre Lore" on my blog. If you should find the postcard-paintings and are able to scan then onto the computer I would love to see them. My e-mail is:

[email protected]

Ali Heywood

I have just found Theyre's postcard paintings and they are wonderful, and his letters full of warmth and humour. I will endeavour to scan some of them and add to the site but am a bit busy for the next week.
Ali Heywood


Thank you, Ali...if you are able to scan them it would be nice to see more of Theyre's work.

Tessa Deverill

I am Theyre Lee-Elliott's niece, Anthony Lee-Elliott's sister, and like other members of the family have treasured paintings by Uncle T. I have works spanning a nuber of years and it is very interesting to see how his techniques changed. I know many of the originals of his posters are with our cousin who lives in Sussex, as I do, and she has very generously given some of Theyre's works to his great nephews and nieces and they really appreciate them. He also painted a picture of a cricket match for my husband in the style of his ballet pictures and put his own sense of humour into it by calling it 'The last ball of the match' with the score showing it was a very vital ball!


Lovely to hear from you, Tessa. If you are able to scan or photograph the cricket picture I would like to see it!

I really love the way this story has evolved and has brought many of the artist's works to light. I welcome any and all news from family members and fans of Theyre.

I also appreciate anyone who has his creations in their collection letting me know and sending scans or photos if possible to me at:
[email protected]

Diane Rensch

We have Theyre's book, Paintings of the Ballet at our art group. I borrowed it - the paintings are absolutely beautiful - full of movement and light.I have since seen some of his other work which is equally beautiful. He was truly a great artist. Diane


My grandmother (Polly St Aubyn Cory) was a close friend of Theyre's in the 40s and he gave her various paintings, sketches and several signed copies of his book. He also gave her a beautiful hand painted brooch. I think he must have been very fond of her but I don't know any more about their friendship or why they lost contact with each other. I have always been intrigued by him and it has been fascinating to read stories about the man himself.

Maggie Tyrer

Just read all these comments regarding Theyre.
We have a very detailed fine pencil and subtle coloured crayon drawing of a deer's head. Very Art Deco. The signature is beautifully written in small capitals, often done with illustrations. We are selling this in our Gallery for £225.00.
If anyone is interested we can furnish more information. Maggie


Maggie, do you have a photo or scanned image of the drawing? I would love to see it.

You can e-mail to me at:
[email protected]

Adrian Money

I have just bought a lovely ink brush study of a lynx's head by Lee-Elliott inscribed to Phyl and Doug and dated 1936. I will be selling this on Ebay starting on the 4th November and ending on the 14th.

Tony Lee-Elliott

From Tony Lee-Elliott. The Brown head of a lynx that went for sale on ebay ended up back in the family. Theyre did a whole period of big cats, but never one of a lion. Somebody prove me wrong!

John Scott

My mother, Sybil Hermione Scott (nee Blackwood) was a friend of Theyre Lee-Elliott in the 20s. When preparing to move house after 30 years, I came across 2 Theyre pencil / coloured drawings. One is three studies of a puma's head dated 1929. The other is of a squirrel's head in the same style and is dedicated to my mother: "For Hermione, with Love & Best Birthday Wishes from Theyre, 15 July 1928". My mother was born in 1907 and died in 1980. I would be happy to sell these to any interested party. Will send a scanned image if required.


Hello John, if you would like to send scanned images of your Theyre Lee-Elliott works I will post them and see what happens. Just attach to an e-mail and send to:
[email protected]

Keith Anderson

I have just read through your blog. I am doing a PhD on art and theology and am looking at Theyre's picture - Crucified Tree Form - the Agony, painted in 1959, which is in the Methodist Modern Art Collection; which you can find on www.methodist.org.uk/static/artcollection. It is quite different from his other work. If any one has any information on it or other 'Crucifixion' works he may have done or more biographical details I would be grateful.

With thanks

Keith Anderson

Julie McGarry

Hi, I was just reading through your blog, tis an interesting read.

I was wondering if anyone knew what happened to the oil painting Theyre Lee-Elliott did of the speedbird logo comissioned for Imperial Airways?

Tis a lovely use of colour, I really like it but there is little information about it anywhere.



Theyre Smith

This is rather off-topic, but...

I have the given name Theyre. It was my father's middle name (William Theyre Smith - born Enfield 1920).

I have always wondered where the name came from, but have been unsuccessful in tracking it down.

I noted that TLE's nephew stated that TLE worked in shipping. My father also worked in shipping (Thos. R. Miller & Son) as did his uncle (Harry Vos - brother-in-law of my grandfather, William Frederick Smith).

I belive Harry Vos was at TRM&S both prior to and after WWI. Perhaps Harry Vos and TLE new each other and therefore TLE might have also known my grandfather and grandmother (Harry Vos's sister) which somehow led to my father's name?

I am clutching at straws here, but if anyone has any background to the name or knows how TLE got such a name, I would be most grateful.

Thank you.

Theyre Patrick Smith
([email protected])

Val Reader

Hi John
You mention your mother was Sybil Hermione nee Blackwood. Was she related to Bill Blackwood? - My Grandmother (then Polly Blackwood) was married to Bill and knew Theyre in the 30's-40's.

Val Reader

Sheree J Leeds

I don't know if you'd be interested in this but I also have a Lee-Elliott on my wall. It's not like anything else I've seen on the web but it does carry his clear signature in red in the bottom right corner. It's of a very haughty and regal looking cat (aren't they all?)and I'd be happy to let you have more details if you'd like them.

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