Beryl Cook OBE

Beryl Cook was born in 1926 in Surrey, England, one of four sisters. She left school at fourteen, showing little talent for painting and worked in a variety of jobs. Moving to London in 1943 Beryl became a showgirl in a touring production of ‘The Gypsy Princess’. She also worked in the fashion industry, which inspired her life-long interest in the way people dress and how they look.

 

In 1951 Beryl and her family moved to Southern Rhodesia, a move that was to prove a turning point for Beryl. One day she picked up some paints belonging to her son and started a picture. She enjoyed it so much she could not stop. She painted on any surface she could find, scraps of wood, fire screens and most notably a breadboard, as can be seen from her famous early painting of Bowling Ladies.

 

In 1963 the Cooks returned to England to live in Cornwall where Beryl began to paint in earnest. They moved to Plymouth, where Beryl would concentrate on painting in the winter months, recreating her personal views of Plymouth in vivid oils on wooden panels.

 

Her paintings are accessible, fun, exuberant and thoroughly unpretentious "I don't know how my pictures happen, they just do. They exist, but for the life of me I can't explain them". But, contrary to popular belief, not all her characters are singing, clapping or throwing their heads back in glee. What caused so many to identify with her paintings was partly the vicarious pleasure of seeing big girls singing, dancing, eating, drinking, flirting and creasing up with laughter, but also the artist’s knack of capturing with economy, precision and humour, a huge range of quieter characteristics. 

 

Beryl Cook passed away in May 2008, aged 81.

        

 

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