Teddy bear artist Deborah Jones loved by the stars dies aged 91
A WORLD-renowned artist who had an entire exhibition of her teddy bear paintings bought by film star Cary Grant has died aged 91.
Deborah Jones made a living painting teddy bears – an obsession born when only her treasured teddy Lexi survived a German bombing raid which destroyed her home in Richmond Park Road, Clifton in 1941.
When she died at the John Wills House care home in Westbury- on-Trym on Christmas Eve a now fairly tatty Lexi sat loyally by the television at her bedside.
Over the years she painted Lexi many times often with objects she had picked up on her world travels.
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At first she displayed her canvases on railings along the Bayswater Road in London but was soon exhibiting all over the UK and in countries including France, Italy and America.
In 1975 Bristolian Cary Grant, famed for films including Bringing up Baby, The Awful Truth, and North by Northwest went to the first day of an exhibition in London and ended up buying the whole lot – around 20.
American singer and actor Frank Sinatra also owned her work.
When she first moved to Bristol in the 1930s following the death of her father she worked for Bristol Aeroplane Company machine shop.
She later moved to London where she worked on sets and designs at the British Film Studios, the West End and the Royal Ballet where she dressed ballerina Margot Fonteyn.
When she returned to Bristol in the mid 1970s Miss Cooper first lived in Caledonia Place and Tyndall's Park Road in Clifton before finally moving to Rownham Mead in Hotwells where she spent more than 25 years.
Sister-in-law Beryl Jones said: "She was a very colourful character with very colourful language. She never learnt to drive or had a car so would walk everywhere.
"She never had an art lesson, didn't like the idea of art school at all and was completely self-taught.
"As soon as she picked up a pencil she started to draw. She was just had a wonderful natural talent."
She added: "Cary Grant had her paintings so they ended up in Hollywood and Frank Sinatra had one.
"It is amazing what she has achieved. She started with nothing and has done very well.
"And she had a huge collection of friends from all walks of life."
Jenny Michalis, of Art Original in Union Street, said: "She was an amazing lady and we were privileged to have her work for the past four years. Her interest in painting was her life.
"I heard all about how teddy Lexi was with her during the blitz and was all that was left after she came out of the air raid shelter.
"Teddy Lexi was with her right up to her death on Christmas eve, sat looking at her by the television.
"We at Art Original will sadly miss this great lady."
Miss Jones' funeral will be held at Canford Crematorium on Tuesday, January 22 at 1pm. All are welcome. No flowers, donations to RSPCA Bristol Cats and Dogs home.