The astonishing national and international response to Beryl’s death at the age of 81 on May 28th 2008, both in the media and from the general public, was a remarkable testament to her unofficial position as Britain’s favourite painter, who’s lasting popularity amongst the public was in direct contrast to the dismissive view of the elitist British art establishment; a view which, it has to be said, was an endless source of amusement to Beryl.
Influenced by amongst others, Stanley Spencer and Edward Burra, Beryl almost single-handedly promoted the ideal that humorous art had real merit and could be collectable. Her saucy humour, never malicious but always accurate, immediately struck a chord with the general public and the fact that her pictures have been collected and enjoyed for over thirty years is a testament to the true integrity of her painting as uniquely, Beryl painted solely for herself and no-one else. If a subject or incident amused her or captured her imagination she painted it and, having done so, she enjoyed that picture as much as anyone. For this reason paintings often remained in her possession for many months after they were finished. She painted what she wanted, not what anyone else wanted, but above all she painted ordinary people having a good time.
Famously publicity-shy (she was awarded the OBE in 1995 and received it in a private civil ceremony in Plymouth, not from a member of the Royal Family at Buckingham Palace) her low profile enabled her to sit quietly in a pub or café and discreetly observe and record the activity around her.
Having achieved national recognition in 1976 she became a major influence on any number of artists who followed her humorous lead in the 1980s and 1990s. Uniquely she also inspired an animated TV series, BOSOM PALS in 2004 and was praised by the likes of Dawn French, Maureen Lipman and Victoria Wood, who once memorably described Beryl’s paintings as ‘Rubens with jokes’.
For Beryl her pictures had a life of their own and she once famously said ‘ I don’t know how my pictures happen. They just do. They exist, but for the life of me I can’t explain them’. That they did and that they brought such delight to so many is enough explanation for us all.