A personal tribute to Broads artist Roland Green

David Joel still remembers the first time he was introduced to the great Norfolk artist Roland Green as a Paston schoolboy with a burgeoning love of natural history.

That meeting at the bird painter's Hickling home instilled in him a love of art that has sustained him throughout his life, including his long and distinguished career in the Royal Navy.

Now, at the age of 83, the retired commander is planning his own special tribute to the prolific artist whose legacy on his death in 1972 was a rich kaleidoscope of bird images, many in wild Broads settings.

Cmdr Joel, who lived at a listed lighthouse in Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire, until he moved to Hampshire, two years ago, is to sell his lifetime's collection of Green artwork with profits going to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, the primary benefactor, and the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists' Society.

More than 120 watercolours and seven oil paintings will go on sale at the Wildlife and Art Gallery, Lavenham, Suffolk, from September 1 to 9 and Hickling Barn, Hickling, on September 14 and 15. The remainder of his collection will go on sale at St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, in Lymington, in the spring.

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In a further tribute, Cmdr Joel has written A Homage to Roland Green –His Norfolk Legacy with images of the artist as well as his paintings.

The sale has been welcomed by Brendan Joyce, chief executive of Norfolk Wildlife Trust, who said: 'Roland Green's paintings have a distinct style which capture the range and beauty of Norfolk's wildlife.

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'He had a particular association with NWT's Hickling Broad which is hardly surprising given its stunning panoramas and wildlife which has given inspiration to many artists.

'We are very grateful for the donation of profits from the exhibition to continue our vital habitat work at Hickling Broad and across Norfolk.'

Cmdr Joel, who was living at Cart Gap, Happisburgh during the second world war and cycled the nine miles to school each day in North Walsham, recalled: 'There was not anyone on the Broads who did not know about Roland Green.

'He lived in the reedbeds and people thought he was a hermit, but he was anything but.

'He was an extrovert who gave talks at school and loved enthusing children with his love of art.'

The impressionable schoolboy kept a diary of his visits to Green's studio and remembers his advice to 'look at a bird in flight, memorise what you see and then sketch it'.

He said: 'Modern artists use photographs but Green worked only from observation and that is why his birds look absolutely real.'

Cmdr Joel said Green always amazed pupils on his visits to Paston school by asking boys what bird they wanted him to draw – 'and then doing it in about eight strokes'.

Green had started his art collection by giving him a sketch during an early visit to his home but Cmdr Joel recalls the first of his paintings he had bought was an image of a peregrine falcon.

'I bought it with birthday money when I was 15 for the princely sum of 15 shillings,' he said.

Cmdr Joel confessed that painting and collecting art had to take a back seat during his naval career when he commanded eight ships and served in the Falklands War, but his interest started in earnest again on retirement.

A Homage to Roland Green – His Norfolk Legacy is published by St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, Lymington, and is priced at �25. The book will also be available at selected bookshops from next weekend, including Jarrold in Norwich and bookshops in Cley.

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