Guest Blog: Doreen Heaton and Peter Potworowski

3rd June 2019 / Museum blog

Doreen Heaton was a young art school student at the Bath Academy of Art , Corsham when she met and fell in love with the charismatic Polish painter, Peter Potworowski. Peter, a veteran of the First World War Uhlan Lancers fighting against the Germans, a student of Ferdinand Leger in Paris, and a member of the Capist group (Polish colourists) of artists, arrived in Britain in 1943 after the fall of Poland.

In 1949 Peter was made professor of painting at Corsham by its brilliant principal, Clifford Ellis. There he worked along side the likes of William Scott and Peter Lanyon. Within a few months Doreen had moved into Peter’s apartment and when he moved to Pickwick it is assumed she accompanied him there.

During the 1950s, Doreen and Peter travelled around the Mediterranean, both painting extensively. In 1958, Peter was invited by the Polish government to come back and be Professor of painting in Poznan for 1 year, but they never left, staying until Peter died in 1962.

Peter’s legacy to Doreen was a large collection of paintings and an artistic style learnt from a master. Her work has all the values and painterly qualities of Peter, but she lacked the confidence to sell herself, taking second place to her famous husband.

After Peter’s death, Doreen chose to stay in Poland, earning a living as a translator and painting whenever she had the time. She made annual trips back to England to see her father and family most years, but this was the only contact she had. In 1984 she decided to leave Poland and gave the vast majority of Peter’s work to the State. She continued to paint after her return and died in 2014.

Her collection of paintings is now being sold by Anthony Mortimer fine art.  Her work is abstract and figurative expressionism with a bold sense of colour and form. It, unsurprisingly, reflects the style and content of her mentor and teacher, without being a copy or replicating his paintings. They reflect her time in Poland and her diaries, while rather sad, show a woman coping with life in a foreign environment.

Doreen’s work features in DH Potworowska 1930-2014 running from Saturday 1 June to Friday 14 June at Chippenham Museum