refusing to paint the sinister aspects of life, Beryl Cook’s depictions of happy, flamboyant, and extroverted characters have become instantly recognisable and highly sought after.
Born in Egham, Surrey in 1926, Beryl was one of four sisters. Unfortunately, her parents separated when she was young and her mother and sisters moved away from her father to Reading. It was here, at the age of 10, that she met her future husband, her next door neighbour John Cook.
Beryl attended school in Reading, however she left at the age of 14 in search of work. She worked a variety of jobs, and after the war even worked as a model and a showgirl. In 1948, Beryl married her childhood sweetheart and they had their first son in 1950. After spending a decade living in Zimbabwe, Beryl and her family moved back to England in the mid sixties and chose Cornwall to call home. They bought a guest house in Plymouth, and it was during her time here that she became deeply inspired by her surroundings and guests, so decided to paint. Her artworks hung on the walls of the guesthouse, before they caught the attention of one of their guests, who subsequently put her in touch with the management of the Plymouth Arts Centre, where her first exhibition took place in November 1975.
Beryl Cook 1986, with her first great grandchild Jodie. (Image Credit: ourberylcook.com)
Beryl’s first exhibition was a great success, and was followed by an exhibition at the Portal Gallery in London in 1976, where Cook continued to exhibit regularly until her death.
Cook was enjoying growing popularity and her paintings were soon in great demand. In 1995, Beryl Cook was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE), however she did not attend the official ceremony due to her shyness, and accepted the honour at a quieter ceremony in Plymouth the following year. Considering Cook’s artistic career began rather late in her life, she achieved great success, and is one of Britains best know painters.