Beryl Cook in her studio
10 September 1926
Egham, Surrey, England
|Died||28 May 2008
|Awards||O.B.E for services to art|
Beryl Cook, OBE (10 September 1926 – 28 May 2008) was an English artist best known for her original and instantly recognisable paintings of people enjoying themselves in pubs, girls shopping or out on a hen night, drag shows or a family picnicking by the seaside or abroad – tangoing in Buenos Aires or gambling in Las Vegas. She had no formal training and did not take up painting until middle age.
She went to Kendrick Grammar School located in Reading, Berkshire.
Personality and influences
Cook started painting when living in Southern Rhodesia with her husband and young son, and continued to paint on returning to England during the 60’s, but only began to sell her work in the mid 70’s
She found new material for her work while travelling. Early local scenes expanded those depicting Buenos Aires, New York, Cuba, Paris and Barcelona.
Cook admired the work of the English visionary artist Stanley Spencer, his influence evident in her compositions and bold bulky figures, as well as several of her pictures depicting a similarly religious aspect; e.g. Noah, The Virgin and Jonah & The Whale. Another influence was Edward Burra, who painted sleazy cafes, nightclubs, gay bars, sailors and prostitutes, although, unlike Burra, she did not paint the sinister aspects of scenes. She was described by Victoria Wood as "Rubens with jokes". Beryl Cook's work can be seen in context with the British tradition of social realist painters and could be described as a twentieth century Hogarth or Gilray, although she had a more sympathetic view of the human race. She was, like them above all a social observer. In 1979 a film was made about Beryl Cook for LWT's South Bank Show. The TV company Tiger Aspect made two half-hour award winning animated films of Beryl Cook's irrepressible women who meet at Plymouth's Dolphin Pub. Entitled 'Bosom Pals' had an all star cast of voices with Dawn French, Rosemary Leach, Alison Steadman and Timothy Spall. They were screened on BBC1 in February 2004.
Beryl Cook was made an O.B.E. in 1995. In 2005 Channel 4 News presented a short film of Beryl and her work, she was also the featured artist in The Culture Show in 2006. Beryl Cook's paintings have been acquired by Glasgow Museum of Modern Art, Bristol City Art Gallery, Plymouth Art Gallery and Durham Museum. The Baltic, Gateshead had a major Beryl Cook Exhibition in 2007, and a full retrospect exhibition was put on by Plymouth University after her death in November and December 2008. In 2010 several of Beryl Cook's paintings were loaned to Tate Britain for their exhibition 'Rude Britannia – British Comic Art', Bristol City Art Gallery and Museum held a retrospective exhibition in 2011.
Publications : 'The Works' ( John Murray 1978 ) 'Private View' ( John Murray 1980 ) 'Seven Years and a Day' ( Collins 1980 ) 'One Man Show' ( John Murray 1981 ) 'Bertie and the Big Red Ball' ( John Murray 1982 ) 'My Granny was a frightful bore' ( Chrysalis Books 1983 ) 'Beryl Cook's New York' ( John Murray 1985 ) 'Beryl Cook's London ( John Murray 1988 ) 'Bouncers' ( Gollancz 1992 )'Happy Days' ( Gollancz 1995 ) 'Cruising' (Gollancz 2000 ) 'Beryl Cook: ' The Bumper Edition ' ( Gollancz 2000 )'The World of Beryl Cook' by Jess Wilder & Jerome Sans ( Prestel 2007 ) revised by Jess Wilder in 2008 ( Prestel ) 'Rude Britannia- British Comic Art, Catalogue Tate Britain 2010.
- "Beryl Cook: a Profile". BBC. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
- "Painter Beryl Cook dies aged 81". BBC. 28 May 2008. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
- "Beryl Cook: The Times obituary". The Times (London). 29 May 2008. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
- Rachel Campbell-Johnston (29 August 2006). "Roll out the Beryls". The Times (London). Retrieved 20 February 2011.
- Jess Wilder (30 May 2008). "Beryl Cook: Self-taught painter with a beady eye for the joys and absurdities of life". The Independent (London). Retrieved 20 February 2011.