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Beryl Bainbridge: portrait of the novelist as an artist

Melvyn Bragg launches exhibition of author's hidden passion

Published on November 27th 2012.


Beryl Bainbridge: portrait of the novelist as an artist

SUCCESS and critical acclaim in the world of literature eclipsed a lifelong passion of multi-award winning author Beryl Bainbridge - and that was her art.

Now the Museum of Liverpool is give a rare glimpse into the lesser known side of the city-born writer of An Awfully Big Adventure and Everyman For Himself.  

A special exhibition dedicated to her paintings, is be opened next week by Melvyn Bragg.

Running until 28 April 2013, Beryl Bainbridge, Painter, is a collection of 15 paintings by the celebrated and award-winning novelist, displayed together for the first time in her home town.

Born in Liverpool in 1932 and raised in Formby, Beryl showed an interest in art and literature from an early age, writing stories inspired by family life in her teenage years that were illustrated with her own art work.

Throughout her life, Beryl drew heavily from her own experiences and memories of Liverpool became a strong emotional tie and source of inspiration for both her literature and painting. Her two talents developed hand-in-hand and Beryl Bainbridge, Painter explores each painting’s connections to her best-loved novels, family, lovers and life in Liverpool.

Three Friends From Liverpool, 1966Three Friends From Liverpool, 1966

The exhibition’s curator, Paul Gallagher, said: “She may not have had any formal training, but Beryl’s paintings reveal a vibrant and exuberant style that mirrored her distinctive personality and storytelling technique. We feel privileged to be displaying her work in the Museum of Liverpool, celebrating her talents in both literature and art.”

Paintings featured in the exhibition include portraits of her children, Liverpool memories, depictions of the story of the Titanic, Captain Scott’s journey to the South Pole and of Napoleon, who was a rich source of inspiration for Bainbridge.

Many of her paintings can be related back to particular periods in Bainbridge’s writing career, linking to books such as Harriet Said, A Weekend with Claude, The Birthday Boys, and The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress, which was published in 2011 after her death.

Psiche Hughes, a close friend of Beryl for nearly 50 years, helped bring the exhibition to life, and has written a book entitled Beryl Bainbridge, Artist, Writer, Friend which provides a vivid first-hand portrait of Beryl’s life.

Psiche said: “It was while helping to catalogue her paintings that I felt inspired to write about Beryl and all the qualities that made her such an inspirational talent, and above all, a great friend.

Beryl-Bainbridge_1671123CBeryl Bainbridge

“While her writing career was never smooth, she found painting to be a relaxing and exhilarating experience, which had close interconnections with her life and writing. Painting was as much a part of her as her novels, and being able to let people see this side of her is a great testament and celebration of her life and very rewarding for those who knew her.”

Also included in the exhibition set in the Museum’s Skylight Gallery are several objects relating to Beryl and her career, including first editions of several of her books, a journal and images taken throughout her life, many of which have been provided by Psiche Hughes and Beryl’s children Aaron, Jojo and Rudi.

Jojo Davies said of her mother: “She was a hugely original painter and painted with a surety and freedom that reminds me of her personality…there is an honesty in her work that comes from her intensely creative personality.”

Beryl died  in 2010 at the age of 77. During her career she was famously nominated for the Man Booker Prize five times, yet didn’t win the title until she was posthumously awarded a special prize in 2011, whereby five of her novels were pitted against each other, the winner being decided by public vote.

Bainbridge won the Whitbread Award for best novel in 1977 and 1996, and in 2008 was among The Times’ 50 Greatest Writers Since 1945.

The Titanic And Lifeboat, Late 1990SThe Titanic And Lifeboat, Late 1990s

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