Beryl Cook was one of England’s most popular painters, and she probably still is. Easy to see why. Her paintings are so honest and so funny and somehow so British, showing real people doing real things. Her art lets us see the hilarity in everyday life.
Beryl admired the work of the English visionary artist Stanley Spencer, his influence is evident in her bold bulky figures and in her compositions. Edward Burra particularly appealed, he too loved to paint sleazy cafes, nightclubs, gay bars, sailors and prostitutes, though unlike Burra there is nothing sinister in her world. The appeal of Beryl Cook’s paintings is their directness, exuberance and the instant laughter they create. Her characters are always enjoying themselves to the hilt. Beryl was the least pretentious of painters and an artist in the same tradition as Breughel, though perhaps via Donald McGill! She was described by Victoria Wood as ‘Rubens with jokes’.
Her style is instantly recognizable. Once you have seen a couple of Beryl Cook paintings, you will always know when you are seeing another.
The situations are often bawdy, and her paintings have a balance of men and women I haven’t seen a lot of in fat art. There are not many people of color in her paintings. The paintings that deal with LGBT community are fun and positive too.
The people in her paintings tend to be older and heavier, and they don’t seem a bit bothered by either age or weight; they are too busy enjoying life to be bothered by such trivial matters.