Ruth Roland - About Ruth Roland

Born in Salford in 1921, Ruth Libstein, as she was born, began to paint at the age of eight. After winning a scholarship to Broughton High School, she studied art at the Manchester School of Art from 1937.

Classically trained, she began to experiment with abstraction of figurative imagery in the early 1940s, and, following her marriage to aeronautical scientist Leslie Ward in 1943, moved with him to the first garden city of Letchworth, Hertfordshire in 1949. Here with her own studio, she began creating the earliest of her huge body of work, moving exploring abstract expressionism, and after painting solidly for ten years, during which time she had three children, she was offered her first one woman show at the Grabowski Gallery in Chelsea in 1961.

She had lost both her parents within the twelve months prior to the exhibition, but she was buoyed by the reviews that her show was given, in particular Neville Wallace of The Observer, who wrote: 'Her exploration of basic shapes, fluctuating in space, is the latest stage in a progress of conviction...'

Tragedy struck within six months, when Leslie, who had led the guided missile design team at British Aerospace, responsible for 'Thunderbird', died suddenly, leaving Ruth a widow of 41 with three children.

Returning to Manchester, packing up her studio and relocating it to Sale, Cheshire, she remarried, had a fourth child at the age of 45, and began her visual explorations again. Painting was a life force for her, and she would work consistently, from early morning, and although her main medium was oil, she also created a number of sculptures, learnt silk screen printing and lithography.

A true colourist, a vibrancy began to permeate her works, and following the early deaths of both her elder sons in the 1980s, her work seemed to celebrate life all the more. Yet within the brilliance of her colour contrasts, her signature dripped black oil tracery of her ever more exuberant paintings seemed to reference the intensity of her losses whilst she remained on the surface both stoical and calm.

She was not interested in working with an agent. She wanted to work only on the work she wanted to do. The Guardian art critic Merete Bates said at the time of Ruth's Retrospective at Salford City Art Gallery in 1975 that 'Roland is too serious a painter to be long satisfied with attractive and marketable effects..... she has a rare integrity.'

The exhibition before Ruth's at Salford was of L.S. Lowry, and they met whilst she was hanging that show. He was very taken with her large oils of the Salford she had seen coming down in the early '70s, and said 'You have chronicled the Northern domestic landscape, as I have done for the industrial.'

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