Saturday, May 31, 2008

Beryl Cook

I always liked Beryl Cook.

There was always an innocent nautiness in her work and a very fun accessibility to her art.

Beryl Cook, one of Britain's most popular and most recognisable artists, has died aged 81, at her home in Plymouth. Once described by Victoria Wood as "Rubens with jokes", Cook portrayed a world of innocent naughtiness that divided critics but established her as a firm favourite with the public, who never tired of the cards and reproductions of her work.

Her private life was nothing like the pub life that she portrayed so accurately.

Yet the critics hated her: Time Out refused to include her exhibitions in its listings and the Tate never bought one of her paintings. Brian Sewell said of her art: "It doesn’t have the intellectual honesty of the Pig and Whistle. It has a kind of vulgar streak which has nothing to do with art."

Yet infuriatingly for the artistic establishment, her paintings, (produced at a rate of about one a fortnight) commanded up to £20,000 apiece; even more infuriating was that Beryl Cook herself seemed to share their low opinion of her own work. “I know there are some artists who look down on my work,” she said, “and when you compare mine with some of the others, I can see what they’re getting at.”

People invariably wanted to know whether Beryl Cook was fat like her paintings. In fact she was neither fat nor jolly, but thin, almost pathologically shy and extremely neurotic, so much so that several interviewers concluded that her painting was an outlet for the repressed desires and emotions she never dared to express.

She had a disconcerting habit of laughing uncontrollably when uneasy; disabled people or dwarves would reduce her to wheezy hysterics and she could not sit in an audience at a theatre without bursting into fits of nervous giggles. Not surprisingly she rarely gave interviews and never attended private views or publicity events for her own work.

She even refused to go up to London to see the Queen when she was awarded an OBE.

She brought a lot of joy to a lot of people and it seems, more than a little teeth nashing and negative chattering by Art Toffs. Her legacy is way beyond those people now.


Ms Smack said...

What a fantastic piece of art! I love it!

Colin Campbell said...

Yes. She was pretty saucy.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I always liked her work too. I didn't know the other information about her so thank you for this post.

Beaman said...

Her work brings back fond memories. My late grandparents had postcard versions of her pictures on their bathroom wall.