Girling, Sheila 3 of 13).  National Life Stories: Artists' Lives

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  • Recording date

    2009-08-10, 2009-08-09

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's studio, London

  • Interviewees

    Girling, Sheila, 1924-2015 (speaker, female)

  • Interviewers

    Westley, Hester (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 3: [01:57:57] Rabone family background in engineering and art. Memories of JRH; his studio; early interaction with SG. [0:02:31] SG’s maternal grandmother; JRH’s time spent with SG’s aunt in Eymore Wood; JRH’s landscape painting and impact on SG. Paternal family background; SG’s father’s profession; paternal grandfather, Frank Girling, art dealer; temperament of SG’s father and nature of his upbringing in contrast to temperament and upbringing of SG’s mother, her full-name: Beatrice May Harvey [BH]. SG’s sister, Audrey Beatrice Girling [AG]. [0:09:57] SG’s father’s full-name: Cyril Stanley Frank [CG]; his schooling; his successful career with Dunlop Rubber Company. BH’s decision not to pursue art; subsistence of Harvey family. [0:13:44] Reputation of JRH; SG’s memories of watching JRH paint watercolours; Harvey family heritage; CG’s facility for technical draftsmanship. SG’s early memories of family home in Erdington; SG and AG’s relationship then and now; family move to Sutton Coldfield when SG was 8 years old. [0:18:46] SG’s attitude to revealing her age; SG’s birthday; first happy memories of home and BH’s attitude to mothering. [0:21:59] Description of BH’s energy and creative spirit; her effect on SG and AG’s attitude to dressing. BH’s running of domestic sphere; CG’s insistence on etiquette. Arrangement of SG and AG’s bedrooms in Sutton. [0:28:25] BH’s attitude to new family home; description of style and size; family dogs. BH’s attitude to mothering. [0:32:22] Description of family breakfast; reason for SG’s conscientiousness. [0:34:03] Influence of SG’s maternal aunt, botanist, Nellie Blanche Tomlinson [NT]; holidays spent with NT; SG’s childhood anxieties in relation to position in family. Memories of NT’s house, garden and children’s activities. [0:38:02] Sibling relationship between BH and NT; inter-generational influence of NT’s passion for nature on SG and SG’s own son, Tim. [0:40:33] Address of family home; CG’s love of gardening; SG’s parents’ smoking habits; weekend activities; parents attitude to socialising. [0:45:04] Family mealtimes; CG’s preferred conversation topics; extent of music in home; SG’s aptitude for music theory not practice and reason why; CG’s piano playing; SG’s maternal grandfather’s theatrical connections. [0:49:31] CG’s repertoire; AG’s record collection. Newspaper deliveries and family’s political orientation. [0:52:28] Familial attitude to religion; prayers recited. Organisation of bedtime; parental demonstrations of affection; childhood reading and influence of particular novels; SG’s attitude to reading; SG’s undiagnosed dyslexia and impact on attitude to school; patterns of dyslexia within family; mention of SG’s son, Paul [ Paul Caro, PC]. [0:58:06] SG’s first day at primary school in Erdington; learning to read and write. [01:01:35] Description of school uniform at Highclare College for Girls; lifts to school; CG’s cars; organisation of school day, subjects studied. [01:04:33] SG’s favourite subjects; the School Certificate; reading Shakespeare; favourite teachers; special girlfriends, including Elizabeth Lister, Audrey Thompson and Clare Pollock. School sports and SG’s conscientious attitude to school work. Parental attitudes to SG’s education. [01:12:11] SG’s self-esteem and attitude to appearance; austerity of war years. [01:14:55] Recalls outbreak of Second World War; general panic; preparations for bombing; the air raid shelter. CG’s involvement and recollections of First World War. [01:18:44] General anticipation of German invasion in Second World War; family preparations with purchase of bicycles. Relocation of Highclare School to Staffordshire. AG’s decision to sign up for ATS [Auxiliary Territorial Service]; parental reaction. [01:22:23] SG’s reaction to boarding school; BH’s attitude to her daughters respectively and how this is mirrored by SG’s attitude to her own sons. Atmosphere of war years; ‘making do’; diet. Organisation of boarding; dormitories; provisions for air raids; subjects studied: extent of art education and recollection of particular dramatic performances; SG’s recent invitation to awards ceremony at Highclare. [01:28:09] Family Christmases; Christmas lunch before and during the War; freedom of school holidays. [01:32:02] Family trips to cinema, pantomime and circus. [01:33:58] Passing the school certificate and why the decision was made for SG to go to Birmingham School of Art; exposure to art and art practice throughout SG’s childhood; creative nature of Highclare. [01:37:25] Qualifications needed for entry to Birmingham art school; the broad range of subjects studied in first year; SG’s enthusiasm for the school; SG’s daily bus ride into Birmingham; friendships, Elizabeth Lister and new friends, Eileen Cashmore among others; ratio of male to female students during war years. [01:42:28] Recalls air raid sirens and bombing of Coventry; wartime contributions and map painting at Birmingham; AG’s reticence to discuss experiences in ATS. [01:45:54] Discussion of tutors at Birmingham, including Fleetwood-Walker, Harold Smith and important influence of [Richard] Stubington in shaping SG’s understanding of the palette; nature of rapport between tutor and student; how they addressed one another. [01:49:14] Organisation of life class; school shop for materials; quality of oil paint; size of class; posing the life model; process of drawing and extent of tutor’s instruction; student drop out rate. Parental expectations of SG’s degree; significance of teaching qualification. SG’s aptitude and enjoyment of first year subjects such as pottery, architectural drawing, silversmithing; what remains of these student projects. [01:55:45] SG’s ambition to become a painter; childhood trips to Birmingham art gallery to see family’s paintings and visits to exhibitions of Royal Society of British Artists. BH’s insistence on SG and AG’s exposure to art; hang of Harvey family paintings at home. Possibility of Harvey family exhibition at Birmingham art gallery.

  • Related transcripts

    Sheila Girling interviewed by Hester Westley: full transcript of the interview

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