Francis Helps R.B.A., N.P.S.
Born London 1891. Parents artistic; father died young.
Attended Dulwich College, then the Slade, with Professor Fred Brown as Principal; fellow student of Augustus John, won one of two Slade Scholarships, then worth about £20.00 per annum!
1911 - Spent a year in France, which he much enjoyed – living was cheap and inspiration for painting abounded. He returned in 1914 for a quiet summer’s painting, and then had difficulty returning to England when war broke out; he soon found himself back in France, in the trenches. A member of the Artists’ Rifles, he was not a natural soldier, and with his large frame he did not find army practice and routine easy to handle. An NCO once yelled: Mr ‘Elps, when I says ‘Raise ‘em legs, I want ‘em rose.’
1924 – invited by John Noel to accompany the Mount Everest expedition to the foothills, in order to paint the local Tibetans, and also members of the climbing party. There was an exhibition of these paintings and Noel’s photographs at the Alpine Club Gallery. He painted some 30 pictures, most of which went to America, 20 eventually ending up in the private collection of Grace Nicholson, a lady who clearly had a great interest in the Asia. They formed part of her estate inventory when she died in 1948, and were then auctioned in 1950, and the collection did not remain intact.
1932-52 -Helps taught painting at the Royal College of Art, and was Head of School of Painting and Drawing at Leeds College of Art 1952-56.
He was a lifelong friend of John and Sybille Noel. He married Oriana, a Creole lady, and the 4 often spent the weekend at the beautiful house in the Weald of Kent which Noel was restoring in the 1930s. For the local villagers, the party must have appeared incongruous – arriving in a motor vehicle, bringing down pots and pans, cooking exotic ‘foreign’ dishes, accompanied by a menagerie – cats and a monkey, which, if tormented by the inquisitive local village children, who had never seen such creatures, would escape to the roof and fling tiles down on the unsuspecting crowd below.