A Lesson in Art and Life

A Lesson in Art and Life

The Colourful World of Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines

Revised and updated paperback edition of this acclaimed biography of a unique couple who were hugely influential across the spheres of art, gardening and cookery

Cedric Morris (1889–1982) and Arthur Lett-Haines (known as Lett) (1894–1978) were an extraordinary couple who were at the centre of the Modern British art scene and were hugely influential across the spheres of gardening and cookery as well as art.

After studying in Paris in the 1920s, they moved to London, where they gave fabulous parties attended by the cream of creative London. Morris became a sought-after painter of flowers, birds and landscapes, while Lett was hailed as Britain’s first Surrealist.

Together they founded the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing at Benton End in Suffolk, attended by Lucian Freud and Maggi Hambling, where the atmosphere was described as “robust and coarse, exquisite and sensitive all at once, also faintly dangerous”. Lett ran the school and was a superb cook who swapped recipes with Elizabeth David. Cedric Morris became an award-winning plantsman and poppy and iris breeder. He was an acknowledged influence on many gardeners, including Beth Chatto.

This biography, revised and updated in this paperback edition, is a fascinating portrait of a unique couple who were hugely influential across the spheres of gardening and cookery as well as art.

Hugh St. Clair is an experienced arts and design journalist with reviews and features published in numerous British and international magazines and newspapers from House and Garden and Country Life to The Art Newspaper and Bonhams auction house magazine. He has edited and written four books on paintings including Buying Affordable Art and three volumes of Miller’s Guide to Art. He lives in London.

"A fascinating and very British story mixing minor aristocracy and delicious homosexual high jinks, grand country houses and Avant Garde intrigue. The author’s prose flows easily and free of pretension tickling one pink with his sprightly tone."

The Art Newspaper Adrian Dannatt

"This book will get me through winter - it's a lesson in how to live and garden with passion and no particular rules but lots of colour and flavour and the savour of food, drink, flowers and oil paint."

Telegraph, Best Gardening Books Isabel Bannerman

"The first in-depth picture of Morris's long life."


"A valuable introduction to his subjects’ lives and works, with particularly good chapters on the garden and the food at Benton End."

Spectator Peter Parker

"Provides a compelling window onto the British avant-garde and its relationship with similar movements elsewhere in Europe."

Literary Review Tim Richardson

"Enjoyably revealing."

Gardens Illustrated

"St Clair paints captivating and delightful portraits of  the greatest flower painter of the 20th century and his partner, giving them their rightful place in British art."

Philip Mould

"A well-researched and fascinating read."

House & Garden
The Pimpernel Press Ltd
The Pimpernel Press Ltd
Product Format
198 x 129
Publication Date
Apr 6, 2023
Country of Manufacture
Number of Pages
Product Format
234 x 156
Publication Date
Jun 27, 2019
Number of Pages