by Mary Freer
Edited by Julian Ward-Davies BA Hons
Vic was born Victor Harold Nicholls in Paddock Lane, Aldridge in 1910. He was the eldest of seven siblings. On leaving school at 14, he took various jobs: on a farm, caddying on a golf course, gardening and as a builder's labourer.
Eventually he would marry Mary Smith of Walsall Wood, where the couple would live for a time in Brookland Road. After having two children, John and Jennifer, the couple moved to a cottage in Main Street, Stonnall, near the Royal Oak in about 1938.
For a period during the war years between 1939 and 1945, Vic was a member of a firefighters crew that was based at Norton Canes. A frequent problem was that German bombers would overfly the area north of Birmingham and drop any bombs that they had failed to release over the city. On one such occasion, Vic was blown off his bicycle by the blast of one such bomb.
Vic had shown artistic promise from an early age. His mother had kept a postcard of some sheepdogs that he painted at the age of 5, but he did not paint very much in the early part of his life. During the war, however, while socialising with some locally-based American servicemen, he accepted commissions from one or two of them to paint local scenes, which reflected his great desire to be in the open countryside immersed in nature.
In 1948, the family would have a third child, Mary, the writer of this article. A few years later in 1955, they would move into one of the new council houses in Cartersfield Lane, Stonnall.
He took on newspaper deliveries and as a consequence became very well-known to villagers and people in the outlying areas. It was the walking and cycling for many miles in the area that gave him the inspiration that would eventually drive him to paint landscapes.
A chance meeting
One day, out on one of his walks around the village, he encountered an artist, Victor Murray, who was busy sketching a scene. Mr Murray was a member of Walsall Society of Artists and he encouraged Vic to join the group. This resulted in some of his paintings being exhibited at the art galleries in Walsall and Dudley.
Success in London and Paris
In 1963, he sent three paintings to a gallery in London and two were selected for display. A French journalist took notice of his work and wrote about it for the French magazine La Revue. From that point, interest in his work developed in Paris.
In 1965, his first painting to be shown in France was exhibited at the Paris Salon and two years later he was awarded a silver medal for another painting shown in the same gallery.
Major coverage of his work came from ITV's daily regional news programe, ATV Today, which highlighted the fact that a talented artist was working at the Geest banana warehouse in Lynn Lane, Shenstone.
The Vicar of Stonnall, Rev T J Ward-Davies, said at the time:-
"We are very proud of him and hope that in the near future his work as an artist will be more widely appreciated."
In 1969, his work was shown in the Bull's Eye Gallery in Lichfield which was owned by Christine and John Hirst. Following this, there was some talk of sending his work to the United States, but he had some reservations about that idea, believing that it might result in conveyor-belt, paint-to-order work, which would not have suited his way of doing things.
Vic passed away in 1973 at the age of only 63. There are still many of his paintings around the country that, hopefully, continue to give pleasure to many people.
© Mary Freer 2017
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