PUBLISHED: 13:08 22 October 2008 | UPDATED: 15:32 20 February 2013

Beryl Cook in her studio in August 2006. PHOTO: CHRIS SAVILLE/APEX

Beryl Cook in her studio in August 2006. PHOTO: CHRIS SAVILLE/APEX

A sneak peek at the Beryl Cook exhibition catalogue for the show at Peninsula Arts Gallery, Plymouth

Held in great affection by the city whose people and places she depicted, this month the University of Plymouth is hosting a major exhibition of the work of Beryl Cook. The catalogue accompanying this exhibition contains essays written by both friends and critics, and we have included a selection below.

"It is not enough to simply state that Cook paints people having fun, as has so often been the basic comment, but that she paints particular kinds of people having particular kinds of fun."

Bernadette Casey, Dean of Culture, Communication and Society,

University College Plymouth St Mark and St John

"Plymouth's very grittiness, its dockyard-and-seaside-ness, its slightly down-at-heel post-war appearance, its reputation for toughness, are exactly the things that are positively valued in Beryl Cook's paintings."

Bernadette Casey

"Beryl Cook changed the way we look at the world. It is a tribute to her fame that when we see curvaceous girls all dolled up to go out on a hen night, or a pair of plump ladies gossiping over cups of tea and enormous cream cakes, Beryl Cook is the artist who comes into our minds. Life is full of such 'Beryl Cook Moments'.

Jess Wilder, co-director of Portal Gallery, London, which has exhibited and sold Beryl Cook's paintings since 1976

"The great virtue of the work lies in the fact that the heart of it, its central core, is located in a particular place, namely Plymouth."

Bernard Samuels, Director of Plymouth Arts Centre, 1971-96

"If you look carefully at her paintings, what makes them work is the way the forms push and jostle - against each other, and also against the edges of the picture... Beryl used to claim that she made her figures rotund so as not have to fill in the background."

Edward Lucie-Smith, art critic, historian, photographer and poet

"She captured wickedness, mischief, the joie de vivre that was all around her in the pubs, clubs, cafs and open spaces of Plymouth... Her women are truly memorable. They are wonderful, glamorous, voluptuous and deliciously loud."

Babs Horton, prize-winning writer and Royal Literary

Fund Writing Fellow at the University of Plymouth

"On one occasion we were in a pub garden somewhere in North Devon; one of those places where they turn the kiddies out to play while the adults get on with a bit of serious drinking inside. Almost the only other inhabitants of this space were two very rumbustious children and a woman who might perhaps have been their grandmother... piled dyed-blond hair, long pendulous nose, cake white make-up, a slash of purple lipstick. When your eye strayed downwards you saw black patent leather shoes with rather sinister straps and, as a final touch, a gold ankle chain.

Beryl, I could sense, was immediately fascinated. It was rather like seeing a good hunting dog pointing at a bird. Rather naughtily I said: That's going to be a picture, isn't it?" The only response was a giggle.

Sure enough, next time I visited, there was the painting, already complete."

Edward Lucie-Smith, art critic, historian, photographer and poet

"My chief recollection of Beryl from my first meeting with her was of her great uncertainty.

'Perhaps you could organise an exhibition for the residents in an old people's home?' was one of the first ideas that Beryl put to me.

In spite of all the hesitancy, what did come through was the fact that I was dealing with someone who was passionate in her interest in art."

Bernard Samuels, Director of Plymouth Arts Centre, 1971-96


Beryl Cook 1926-2008

8 Nov - 20 Dec

The Peninsula Arts Gallery,

Roland Levinsky Building,

University of Plymouth

Mon-Fri 10am-5pm;

Sat 11am-4pm

01752 585050

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