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After two years at Leicester, Hans Hess (left centre) became the Keeper at York Art Gallery (bottom right). He married to a fellow refugee and their only child Anita Halpin has looked after the Hess collection for many years, and retains ownership of the Leicester loan collection. Hans Hess was a committed Marxist; his daughter has worked actively with Trade Unions and the Communist Party. Thoughtful and philanthropic, Anita Halpin has tirelessly pursued the Hess family restitution claims in Germany. Recently both the Hess and Pauson families (Alfred Hess’s brother-in-law) made generous donations and bequests to Leicester.

In 1955 the German Jewish refugee art historian Rosa Schapira (top right in a painting by Walter Gramatté) made a major bequest to the museum. An early supporter of the Die Brücke group of artists, in particular Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, she escaped to Britain in 1939 with most of her collection. Her attempts to donate works to major British institutions were largely rebuffed but her offer of 19 works on paper by Schmidt-Rottluff to Leicester was gratefully received. Most of her collection went to her native Germany, which was keen to make amends for the sins of the Nazis.

In 1990 a local businessman, Michael Brooks, made an outstanding donation of 60 works to the German Expressionist collection. Originally interested in Expressionist film, he started collecting after visiting the Museum. His enthusiasm for Expressionist literature, art and film developed into ‘a passion for the entire movement which has never left me’. For the last 20 or so years the collection, now numbering nearly 500 pieces, was skilfully nurtured by curator Simon Lake (small in the centre) who with encyclopaedic knowledge of his subject, fostered important relationships and instigated many special exhibitions. Regrettably Simon was made redundant in 2019 in a cost-cutting exercise; the German Expressionist collection no longer has a specialist or knowledge-based curator.

Trevor Thomas (top left) went on to have a long and diverse career, though never at the level predicted by Sir Kenneth Clark. Talking to his son Giles (Giles Thomas and I, bottom centre) we reflected on how the public ‘outing’ of his homosexuality and subsequent fall from grace had effectively derailed his father. Obliged to see a psychiatrist, who encouraged marriage as a ‘cure’, Trevor married Sheila in 1947 and they had two boys. For seven years he lived in Paris with Sheila and the children, and worked for UNESCO (bottom left) on approaches to arts education. In 1956 he moved to the US, first as Visiting Professor at Columbia University in New York and then as Professor of Art History at Buffalo University. He wrote art criticism for the Buffalo Evening News, and immersed himself in the work of the Abstract Expressionists, which informed his own burgeoning style of painting. He also did an enormous amount of costume and theatre design. He loved America and considered this the most personally fulfilling time of his life.

The marriage by then, with his long absence, had fallen apart and by 1962 Trevor had custody of his sons in London. On his return to London, with the pressing need to look after his sons, he was appointed Art Director to the Gordon Fraser Gallery. In November 1962 he found accommodation at 23 Fitzroy Road in north London, also the home of the poet Sylvia Plath (whom he only knew as Mrs Hughes), who lived upstairs. He spoke to her on several occasions and was the last person to see her alive. She took careful precautions to seal off her children’s rooms, when gassing herself to commit suicide. However, the gas came down the chimney rendering Thomas unconscious.

A few years later Gordon Fraser moved his business to Bedford and Trevor reluctantly followed, sorry to leave London. In his later years, he painted and showed his work and engaged in numerous social, charity and civic duties. He made his home in Bedford where he lived for over 28 years, the last 13 with his partner Robert.