Denis was born in Bristol where he grew up with an absentee father.
He attended Cotham School where he excelled in art and went on to study at the West of England School of Art. He enrolled at the Royal College of Art in London in 1938 along with his best friends from Bristol, Richard MacDonald and John Elwyn, with whom
he shared digs.
Initially a conscientious objector he eventually joined as a Sapper and spent much of the war in Rauden with other artists in the map production unit. Returning to London he married in 1947 but the marriage lasted less than 5 years.
His mental health became fragile at the end of the war and he returned to live with his mother. He was appointed an Art Lecturer in Loughborough, however his mental health deteriorated and he returned to Bristol where he was admitted to Glenside hospital in 1952 for three years. After discharge he eventually taught in Luton but soon returned to Bristol to live with his mother until he died.
Denis painted and drew throughout his life and even when in hospital drew and sketched prolifically on any material he could obtain – a Christmas card he printed is said to have been made using lino he cut from the ward floor! His hospital work gives a telling insight into the life of patients not shown in official descriptions, and reveal a life little changed from the 19th century.
Denis Reed's art
Images used with permission of Glenside Hospital Museum.