Joy Fleischmann obituary | Art

My mother, Joy Fleischmann, who has died aged 93, spent many years working as an assistant to her husband, the Hungarian-born sculptor Arthur Fleischmann, before branching out as an artist herself after his death.

Born in Dawley, Shropshire, Joy was the oldest child of Leslie Burtonshaw, an area manager for the Gas Board, and his wife, Lucy (nee Summers). Her first job was at Beatties department store in Wolverhampton, after which she was transferred to Selfridges in London in 1951. She found lodgings at the Wigmore hostel on Wigmore Street, and her room-mate there took her along to a party in Chelsea, where she first met Arthur, who was twice her age.

Joy soon moved into a bedsit neighbouring Arthur’s studio in Mayfair and took instruction from Father William Kahle (later a prison chaplain who had dealings with Myra Hindley), converting to Catholicism before marrying Arthur at Westminster Cathedral in 1955. Her strong Catholic faith defined and shaped her way of life.

Joy soon fell into the role of being Arthur’s assistant, driver, secretary, adviser and muse. She dedicated herself to supporting him. They spent two years commuting to Brussels while Arthur worked on commissions for the British and Vatican pavilions at World Expo 1958. Joy received a Bene Merenti medal from Pope John XXIII for her unsung contribution.

As Arthur’s career flourished, they acquired a sculptor’s studio in St John’s Wood, north London, a base from which, in the 1960s, they travelled widely in South America, with me, a small child, in tow.

Arthur was commissioned to create a sculpture for the British Pavilion at Expo ’70, in Osaka, Japan, and as a family we stayed there for several months, lodging at a Roman Catholic orphanage – a hugely enriching experience.

After Arthur died in 1990, Joy reinvented herself with her own art and the promotion of Arthur’s life and work. She gathered together a collection of volunteers and formed the Arthur Fleischmann Foundation. Her crowning achievement was the inauguration of the Arthur Fleischmann Museum in Bratislava, Slovakia, in 2002.

Joy also started life drawing in the 90s; first at the Royal College of Art under the tutelage of Eduardo Paolozzi and Deanna Petherbridge, among others, and then organising her own sessions in her studio. She subsequently led 10 “travelling art tours” attended by dozens of fellow artists. They took place in Bali, Greece, France, the Spanish Pyrenees, Italy, Slovakia, Kerala, Croatia, Turkey and Jordan.

Joy’s artistic journey culminated in two London exhibitions of her paintings and drawings; the first, The Art of Joy, in 2011, and the second, a joint exhibition with the mosaicist Trata Drescha, Mosaics and Muses, at Burgh House in 2018.

Although frail in her last years, Joy’s death was sudden. She was painting enthusiastically just two days before she died.

She is survived by me and her younger sister Pat.

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