This is Joan’s idyllic picture of a swimming afternoon at the river with school friends; her (rather stylish!) signature is on the left.
In the 1930’s Joan went to a small girls’ school in Oxford which had many eccentricities. One was that their pioneering art teacher Marion Richardson preferred the girls to write with dip pens (and inkwells) and a special Dudley nib, to produce a beautiful patterned script. But she was clearly a gifted teacher and encouraged Joan and others to express themselves through painting; a lovely and mysterious picture of Joan’s appears in Richardson’s book Art and The Child. Richardson wrote:
“When a teacher frees the artist’s vision within a child he inspires him to find a completely truthful expression for it. The vision itself is so lovable that nothing short of sincerity will serve…satisfaction may be found in projecting the wish for something that real life has so far denied.”
An inspiration that transferred itself to Joan’s writing as well, perhaps.
A slightly mixed blessing was the school’s access to a rather muddy bathing place by the Rhea island on the River Cherwell near the school on the Banbury Road; those more experienced could use the deep end with diving boards, and also join the sculling club, or learn the more dangerous arts of punting and canoeing! Beginners – non swimmers – were dangled on the end of a pole as in this illustration from Jean Webster’s famous tale , and illustration, of an earlier college girl’s education:
On hot days the river must have been a very welcome resource, muddy or not, and there was always the fun of frightening new girls with the fable of the dead donkey once seen in its depths…
Those hot days, afternoons with friends at the Oxford riverside must have been wonderful, and Joan never lost her fondness for swimming in rivers, or for painting portraits and landscapes, or even for causing a sensation by telling scary stories..!