J H Govier


James Henry Govier was born on 1st August 1910, at Oakley, Buckinghamshire, the only son of Henry Govier and Mary Ann Govier (nee Measey).

In 1914 the family moved to the small town of Gorseinon on the Gower coast in South Wales. James was educated at the local school in Gorseinon until he left school at the age of fourteen to work in one of the local tin works.

At the age of seventeen he became an evening student at the Swansea Art School. James was taken to see Grant Murray, the head of Art at the famous Swansea Art School, and at the age of twenty gained the Glamorgan County Scholarship to study fulltime at Swansea Art School. From 1930, James came under the influence of Grant Murray James and exhibited with many Welsh artists, including Alfred Janes, Ceri Richards and Kenneth Hancock. In 1935 he exhibited with past students at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea.

From 1935 James studied at the Royal College of Art under the tutorship of Malcolm Osborne, RA, RE. At this time he became an acquaintance of the poet Dylan Thomas, and worked with other Welsh artists in London. In 1938 he gained his ARCA along with the Art Travelling Scholarship, which he was unable to take up because of the outbreak of war. From 1938 he worked as Malcolm Osborne’s assistant at the Royal College, and also helped Robert Austin 1940-1942.

In August 1940 he joined the Royal Engineers constructing gun emplacements and in the development of chemical warfare. In 1942 by order of the Air Ministry he was transferred to he Royal Air Force model making section for North Africa and Italy, producing models for the Dambuster raids, the D-Day landings and objectives in Africa and Italy.

James was demobilised in 1945 and started to exhibit with the Aylesbury and District Art Society, becoming an acquaintance of the Society’s patron Augustus John. In 1947 he became Art Master at Eye Grammar School in Suffolk and resided in Eye until his marriage in 1950. In 1950 he married Freda Muriel Tye of Hoxne, a student at Ipswich Art School specialising as a commercial display artist. The couple started married life in Hoxne and moved to ‘The Retreat’, a large thatched house in Hoxne in 1957. James continued to exhibit with the Aylesbury Art Society and Ipswich Art Club.

In 1965 the Eye Grammar School closed and James moved to Diss Grammar School until his early retirement in 1972. James continued to produce vibrant oils and watercolours of East Anglia, including many genre subjects.

James Henry Govier died on the 21st December 1974 and is buried in Hoxne churchyard. He left behind him a large variety of works from small, delicate pencil drawings and etchings to vibrant oils and translucent watercolours. Some of his canvasses are almost impressionistic in style, capturing the quality of the chiaroscuro he so frequently used.

Henry Govier’s works can be seen at The National Museum of Wales; National Library of Wales; The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery / Swansea Art Gallery; Swansea Art Society; The British Museum; Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich; Norwich Castle Museum and Buckinghamshire County Museum