Born in England, Richard Lonsdale-Hands was a highly successful London-based industrial and package designer. After beginning his professional career as a designer on London’s Fleet Street, in 1937, at the age of twenty-four, Lonsdale-Hands broke out on his own, founding Richard Lonsdale-Hands Associates. Lonsdale-Hands’s company (later the Lonsdale Hands Organisation Ltd) subsequently became the largest European industrial design and market research firm of its time (he also acquired Greenly’s Ltd, a major London advertising agency, further expanding his empire.) Lonsdale-Hands was a leader in British design, and by his mid-30s was an internationally recognized captain of industry.
Lonsdale-Hands spent the war years designing camouflage for the British army. Always attuned to art, and especially enamored of modernist painting, Lonsdale-Hands began to paint in 1947 as a means of recreation and self-expression. By his own admission, design had an inherent limitation to creativity, as it primarily required that aesthetics be subordinated to practical and commercial concerns. Lonsdale-Hands turned to painting as a means of exercising his creative engine. Though initially art was for him a second vocation, Lonsdale-Hands grew increasingly serious about his painting, eventually pursuing a public career as an artist. He was also prolific, producing over 500 paintings from 1947 until his untimely death in 1969.
Explaining his motivation to begin painting, Lonsdale-Hands wrote to a friend: “I felt suddenly that I must paint. I had no preconceived ideas, I had been influenced by no books, no movements or fashion, and by no knowledge. Being a designer I had created a great deal of work, but always in a medium and to the brief or even the whims of the client. It was as if I had been a portrait painter—in an engineering sense—and from this situation a certain tension inevitably resulted.” His letter notwithstanding, Lonsdale-Hands’s work is clearly marked by influences from various trends in modern art, including work by artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh, Kirchner, Van Dongen, Nolde, and other expressionist artists. Energy and vigor characterize his paintings, and indeed he noted of his working method that “my policy is to attack a canvas, rather than paint it.” It is this spontaneous, aggressive approach that gives Lonsdale-Hands’s work its vitality and freshness. His subjects come almost entirely from his private life—portraits, self-portraits, figure paintings, animals, still lifes, views of the places he lived and visited—but all merely provide the basis for his free expression in color and form.