Julie Held was just 18 when her mother died after a long battle with leukaemia.

Her death had a profound effect on the young artist, who went on to express her grief in a series of paintings depicting how she imagines her mother, Gisela, would have aged over the years.

Although Julie, who grew up in Hampstead Garden Suburb, has made the paintings throughout her career, they have never before been shown in a public exhibition.

But after being approached by Julia Weiner, curator at the London Jewish Cultural Centre, she agreed to take the plunge and exhibit her work in a show entitled Living Memories.

“I started experimenting in this way when I was at the Camberwell School of Arts during my foundation course,“ explains Julie, who is now 57.

She continues: “I felt very unsure about showing them and I wasn’t sure why I was doing them, it only became clear later that they were a way of coming to terms with her very sad early death.“

The exhibition, to be held at the London Jewish Cultural Centre in Golders Green, will include a new painting in which Julie imagines her mother on her 90th birthday with her father, Peter, who has since remarried.

Gisela came to live in north London aged 11 after escaping Germany in 1937 with her mother and father, who was first sent to a concentration camp.

She studied at art school and went on to become a sculptor.

When Julie, who has two sisters and a brother, was 12-years-old Gisela became ill and died six years later.

Julie’s paintings are created from memories she has of her mother and express the grief she felt, but are also a celebration of Gisela’s life.

“It was a hard time for the whole family, it was very hard for me because these things are painful to witness and there’s not much you can do which makes one feel very helpless,“ says the former Brookland Rise School student.

She explains: “You carry that all through your life, you don’t get over it, you get used to it.

“She was a person with great joie de vivre, she had survived coming as a child from Nazi Germany, as had my father, and she carried the baggage of that deep inside her – sometimes you could glimpse that furrow.

“But she was a person given to celebration and enjoyed that part of life very much.“ Family is a focal point in Julie’s work, and she often paints her father, who is now 92-years-old.

“I have been painting my family since I can remember,“ muses the artist, who teaches at the Royal Drawing School.

“Many artists love the familiarity of the people they’re close to because somehow there’s more to get hold of.“ And it was her parents who first sparked her interest in painting, when she was given a large sketch book for Christmas aged three.

“They also gave me a miniature vacuum cleaner in pink,“ laughs Julie.

“I remember being a thousand times more thrilled with the drawing stuff than the vacuum cleaner and ever since then I loved drawing.“

This initial interest developed into a life-long love for the Crouch End resident, who is a member of the New English Art Club.

“It’s what I’ve always felt happiest doing,“ she enthuses.

“I love the fact that you can put a tiny thing at the end of your finger – a piece of charcoal or pencil and go on a journey.“

London Jewish Cultural Centre, North End Road, Golders Green, May 18 to June 26, a variety of times. Details: 020 7433 8988, jw3.org.uk