PAINTINGS by a widely acclaimed European Expressionist artist, which were created in Amersham, will feature in the inaugural exhibition of Amersham Museum’s new gallery space. This will open on March 9 and is named after the artist, Marie-Louise von Motesiczky, and supported by her charitable trust.

Marie-Louise arrived in Amersham in 1940 when she was 34. Her aristocratic family was of Jewish heritage, and in 1938 she fled her native Vienna and travelled via Amsterdam to England.

In unfamiliar surroundings, she created a new life for herself in a small terraced house on Amersham Common.

The Motesiczky Family in Amersham

Marie-Louise was just getting established as a painter, after holding her first solo exhibition in The Hague. She arrived in England with her mother, Henriette and Marie Hauptmann, her childhood nanny who took on the role of housekeeper. She was very close to Marie-Louise and helped take care of Henriette, who suffered from frequent bouts of ill health and could be very demanding.

Initially the family lived in Hampstead but soon they decided to leave London during the Blitz. Amersham was within easy reach of London so Marie-Louise could remain in touch with friends in the city. The Motesiczkys found lodgings with recently widowed Lottie Meakin at a house then called Edale, on Stubbs Wood (now number 41) overlooking the Chess Valley. Her husband, Walter Meakin, had been a Labour Party member, and a founding member of the National Union of Journalists.


Although the Motesiczkys arrived with only a few possessions, in 1940 they could afford to buy Cornerways, an end of terrace cottage, in a row of three, on the corner of Chestnut Lane and Chestnut Close. There was a large garden which wrapped around the house and backed on to a public footpath.

Henriette recorded her initial reaction to the house: “from the outside it appears totally unassuming, I fell in love with the interior and the arrangement of the rooms. It really was so totally right for us – we could not have found anything better.”

Marie-Louise’s brother Karl, who remained in Austria and later died in Auschwitz, sent some of the family’s belongings, and several of Marie-Louise’s paintings, enabling them to furnish their new home with familiar items. Dutch and German paintings, a Russian rug, an inlaid desk and dining table, and large, ornate wardrobes created an echo of a lost Vienna.

The garden, which features in many paintings, included a lawn tennis court, vegetable garden and fruit trees. The Motesiczkys continued to grow vegetables, which they stored in a lean-to by the house. They used the tennis net to cordon off the orchard, creating a pen for 15 chickens to roam. In the summer their many émigré friends, including the writer and later Nobel Laureate, Elias Canetti, would relax in deckchairs or the comfortable garden hammock. The household included Marie’s black cat, Susi, and the first of many dogs, Philip, a corgi, who Marie-Louise also painted.

Chestnut Lane

Cornerways was located on an unmade country lane with no streetlights or pavements. The road finished at Quill Hall Farm, which was surrounded by fields and views of the Chess Valley. There was one pub, The Red Lion, and a small shop, Chestnut Stores, which sold newspapers, groceries, and tobacco for Henriette’s pipe.

Henriette described her first impressions of Chestnut Lane: “It is situated in a calm, shady street in which, thank God, there are no elegant villas but only small inconspicuous little houses and large meadows and gardens which belong to large estates. An old dairy with wonderful, age-old chestnut trees, grazing cows and horses is opposite us. Also quite close is a pub, from where you can carry very warm beer across the road in the summer.”

The residents of Chestnut Lane were Marie-Louise’s community, the people she would have walked past and greeted, or seen in the local shop or pub. Several even became subjects of her vivid, dramatic portraits.

After the war Marie-Louise moved back to London, where she lived until her death in 1996. Her mother and Marie carried on living in the house in Amersham with Marie-Louise visiting most weekends and continuing to paint there. After suffering a series of strokes, Marie died in 1954. Henriette was becoming increasingly frail, and after Marie-Louise bought a large house in Hampstead, she moved there in 1960. Cornerways was rented out and eventually sold in the 1970s after planning permission was granted for two new bungalows in the garden.

Professional success

Marie-Louise contributed several paintings to émigré artists’ exhibitions during the 1940s, whilst living in Amersham. She became a naturalised British Citizen in 1948 but it took far longer for her to achieve the professional recognition she deserved in her adopted country. In 1985 she had a retrospective exhibition in London at the Goethe-Institut when she was hailed as a major discovery and a “dazzling talent”.

Marie-Louise never needed to sell her work and always found it difficult to let go of her ‘children’ as she called her paintings. After her death, most of her work passed to the charitable trust that she had recently established. The trust has now distributed many paintings among public collections throughout the world, more than achieving her own ambition that: “if you could only paint a single good picture in your lifetime, your life would be worthwhile”.

The exhibition will be free with museum entry and will run from March 9 until August 26, between Wednesdays and Sundays 12pm to 4.30pm.

Please see for more information.