Audrey Pilkington, a distinctive painter established Clock House art centre in Bruisyard, Suffolk, in 1961 which was renowned for its enchanting garden and generous hospitality.
She was born in the village of Newton in the Forest of Bowland on the Yorkshire-Lancashire border, a beautiful landscape that had a profound influence on her future creative life. Her father, George Pilkington, was a land agent, and her mother, Florence (nee Broadley), was a teacher. After attending St Hilda’s school in Whitby, Audrey studied art at the Storey Institute in Lancaster, where she was much influenced by the teacher Ronald Grimshaw, and from there progressed to the Slade School of Fine Art in London.
She married a fellow art student and glass engraver Patrick Heriz-Smith in 1941, and when he became an art teacher at Gordonstoun school in Elgin, the young couple moved to a remote cottage, with no electricity, on the nearby moors. Audrey taught art at the local prep school, designed book jackets for the publishers Chatto & Windus, did drawings for Vogue magazine, and illustrated the children’s book After Bath (1945) by Vaughan Wilkins. In 1947 the family moved to Plön, Germany, where Patrick was head of art at King Alfred’s school and Audrey designed sets for school plays.
The family returned to the UK in 1954 when Patrick was offered the post of head of art at the Royal Hospital school, Holbrook, in Suffolk, and Audrey continued to paint, joining Colchester Art Society and exhibiting in Essex, Suffolk and London. In 1961 she and Patrick bought Clock House, where they set up the art centre. Audrey and Patrick divorced in 1978. Audrey reluctantly sold Clock House in 1987 and the following year moved to Resolven, near Neath in south Wales, where she worked more productively than ever, painting large canvases of astonishing vitality and originality. A major retrospective of her work was held at the Cut, in Halesworth, Suffolk, in 2013.