Southwold Gallery, Suffolk

This painting in water colour and acrylic depicts the windswept marshes at Walberswick, near to the sea side town of Southwold. Between the 16th and 18th centuries, the marshes were drained and used as farmland, they were flooded during the 2nd world war to act as invasion defences and in the 40’s and 50’s they once again reverted to marshes, creating a range of habitats which remain to this day. The area has now become the Suffolk Coast National Nature Reserve and it lies within the Minsmere – Walberswick Heaths and Marshes Site of Special Scientific Interest.

On honeymoon, in Southwold, we wandered in to a large shed –like building crammed with paintings and ceramics rather haphazardly displayed where space could be found. The Grey Winds painting fascinated us both and as we gazed up at it, for it was hanging several feet up, Franic, the artist came over to us. He was pleased with our choice and was quite dismissive of the boats and harbour scenes that he needed to paint to satisfy the tourist market and to earn his living. We settled on our painting at a cost of £20, leaving us with just £20 more to last us the holiday and pay our petrol home and it was only Monday.

We had a fascinating tour of his workshop and then out of the blue Franic said he believed we were musicians, (which actually was the case) and we must come to his home for supper and a musical evening.

We learned that Franic had escaped Poland when the Germans and Russians invaded in1939, and had eventually reached Britain where he served with the R.A.F.  During an E.N.S.A. concert he fell madly in love with the soloist, the notable Wagnerian singer, Maud Heaton, pursued her, and eventually they were married.  After demob, in order to launch his painting/ceramics career, he decided to hire the top floor of a local department store, fill it with art and ceramics and wait to see if he could realize his dream. His huge effort paid off, sales were good and the Southwold Gallery was born.

Maud and Franic’s home, much of it designed and built by Franic himself reflected their great artistic talents with hand painted ceramic tiles adorning the bathroom and kitchen and centre stage in the sitting room a magnificent grand piano draped with a lace shawl and displaying photos of bygone operatic days.

We were in our element and so thankful for the warmth and kind hospitality as well as the music that we shared on several occasions that week with such a remarkable couple. Occasionally, their artistic temperaments would flare in light hearted argument when she would accuse him of being deaf and he would accuse her of being blind. Much laughter ensued.

Our’ Grey Winds’ has given us and our family enormous pleasure over the years and though the name of Franic Zajdowski can’t be found in any internet search, his work remains very significant to us.