John Bratby

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

John Bratby
Born(1928-07-19)19 July 1928
Wimbledon, London, England
Died20 July 1992(1992-07-20) (aged 64)
Hastings, Sussex, England
Alma mater
Known forPainting
MovementKitchen sink realism
Spouse(s)Jean Cooke (1954–1977)
Patricia Rosenburg (until his death)

John Randall Bratby RA (19 July 1928 – 20 July 1992) was an English painter who founded the kitchen sink realism style of art that was influential in the late 1950s. He made portraits of his family and celebrities. His works were seen in television and film. Bratby was also a writer.

Early life and education[edit]

John Bratby was born on 19 July 1928[1] in Wimbledon, south-west London.[2] Between 1949 and 1950, he studied art at Kingston College of Art. He then began attending the Royal College of Art, completing his studies in 1954. He painted landscapes, still lifes, portraits and figure compositions, and had his first solo exhibition that year at London's Beaux Arts Gallery.[3]

He was given the opportunity to travel to Italy when he was awarded a bursary during his college years. However, the experience left him uninspired artistically, and uninterested in travelling.[4]



Bratby is considered the founder of kitchen sink realism a movement in which artists use everyday objects, like trash cans and beer bottles as subjects of their works, which are often thickly-laden portraits or paintings. It began in the early 1950s and has been considered an aspect of John Osborne's "Angry Young Men" movement.[nb 1] Artists Derrick Greaves, Edward Middleditch and Jack Smith were also active in the development of the movement. Bratby often painted with bright colours, capturing his middle-class family's daily lives. The faces of his subjects often appeared desperate and unsightly.[3][4] Bratby painted several kitchen subjects, often turning practical utensils such as sieves and spoons into semi-abstract shapes. He also painted bathrooms, and made three paintings of toilets.[citation needed] Initially there was some critical interest, but English critics later disregarded it as an important movement.[1]

In 1958, Bratby created works for the fictional artist Gulley Jimson in the Alec Guinness film The Horse's Mouth.[1][3] A portion of Bratby's painting Four Lambrettas and Three Portraits of Janet Churchman (1958) is featured on the cover of Mark Knopfler's 2007 album Kill to Get Crimson.[6]

As he matured, Bratby's works became "lighter and more exuberant". He made the mural Golgotha for Lancaster's St Martin's Chapel in 1965.[3] During his career, Bratby promoted himself on television and the radio and was one of his generation's best-known artists. He mingled with celebrities to earn portrait commissions[3] in the late 1960s. By the 1970s he had painted a series of portraits including of Billie Whitelaw.[4]

Bratby was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts in 1971.[7]

In the 1980s he travelled and made paintings of the cities he visited. He made intimately-posed portraits of his wife and self-portraits. He continued to paint with bright colours, but had developed "an economy of line".[4] His paintings are shown in the 1984 television mini-series adaptation of Judith Krantz's novel Mistral's Daughter, about an artist.[1][3]

Bratby's own work fell out of favour with the emergence of Pop art, but his paintings have increased in value and critical support over recent years. Paul McCartney has been a collector of his works. McCartney had given Bratby two hours in Bratby's studio in 1967. Three portraits resulted from the sitting.[8][9][10]


He wrote the novels Breakdown (1960),[3][11] Breakfast and Elevenses (published by Hutchinson; 1961), and Brake Pedal Down (1962).[12] He also wrote a book about Stanley Spencer in 1970.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Bratby was married first to the painter Jean Cooke from 1953 to 1975.[3] He died on 20 July 1992 in Hastings, Sussex, of a heart attack, leaving his widow, Patti Rosenburg.[1]


  • Baby in pram in garden, oil on hardboard, 122 x 144.1 cm, 1956, Walker Art Gallery.[13]
  • Three Self Portraits with a White Wall, oil on hardboard, 241.9 x 196.9 cm, 1957, Walker Art Gallery. First prize winner of John Moores Liverpool Exhibition, Junior Section.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The term later became applied in Great Britain to a form of quarrelsome domestic drama epitomised by John Osborne's play Look Back in Anger. In America, the term was associated with Paddy Chayefsky and other dramatists who created gritty plays for live television during the 1950s.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e Roberta Smith (23 July 1992). "John Bratby Is Dead; 'Kitchen Sink' Artist and a Novelist, 64". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  2. ^ 117 paintings by or after John Bratby, Art UK
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Ian Chilvers; John Glaves-Smith (2009). A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art. Oxford University Press. p. 259. ISBN 978-0-19-923965-8.
  4. ^ a b c d "John Bratby 1928–1992". Tate. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  5. ^ Rutherford, Paul. When Television Was Young. University of Toronto Press, 1990.
  6. ^ "Kill To Get Crimson".
  7. ^ "John Bratby". Royal Academy of Arts.
  8. ^ portrait of Paul McCartney, 1967 by John Bratby (unfinished background) |
  9. ^ "Pretty Boy Paul McCartney portrait goes on sale", Evening Standard, 16 September 2010.
  10. ^ portrait of Paul McCartney and Flowers, 1967 by John Bratby |
  11. ^ John Bratby (1960). Breakdown. London: Hutchinson.
  12. ^ John Bratby (1962). Brake Pedal Down. London: Hutchinson.
  13. ^ "Baby in pram in garden, 1956, John Bratby". Walker Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool. Archived from the original on 7 January 2014. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  14. ^ "Three Self Portraits with a White Wall, John Bratby". Walker Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool. Archived from the original on 7 January 2014. Retrieved 6 January 2014.