An exhibition of Arthur Berry paintings is taking place in Burslem…
It is 25 years since renowned North Staffordshire artist Arthur Berry died. Throughout his 69 years, Arthur worked every day either on his art or his writing, his inspiration drawn from the Burslem streets and playgrounds of his childhood. His prolific output means there is now a substantial legacy of work which captures the vanishing landscapes of the area, and the array of characters who inhabited them.
To mark the anniversary of his death on July 4, 1994, Barewall Art Gallery, in partnership with Arthur’s widow Cynthia, has collated an exhibition of 50 of these paintings which are now on show until the end of August at the gallery in Market Place, Burslem. The paintings represent nearly 40 years of work from Arthur and show his deep-rooted connection and sense of place with the Potteries. His landscapes convey the wind in the trees, the interior light through a window, some are near abstract others a recognisable portrayal. His characters include the instant a man with too much beer inside him fell ill in an alley way, the glamour of a female club singer, the gapped-tooth grin of another drinker anticipating their pint. The paintings’ titles hint at their own stories, “Aunt Ethel”; “A Thin Man”; “Hilltop
Nocturne” and “The Nut Case” – Arthur always said it and portrayed it as he saw it. It is this honesty which brings each painting to life. The affectionate and in some ways cartoon-like portrayals of the people he came across have a vivacity to them, they live on in our imagination and the viewer can build their own stories about them.
Arthur employed paint, pastel, charcoal to bring his art to life, often using board rather than canvas as his work surface. Today each work can command around £2,000 each, but for Arthur each one is a day’s work, an immediate reaction to a sudden inspiration or observation. His concern was not for fame and fortune but to respond to life around him and capture the ‘moment’.
Amanda Bromley of Barewall Gallery found the following note from Arthur as she prepared for this exhibition. Scribbled on a scrap of paper he wrote: “And each in his separate star, shall draw the things as he sees it, for the God of things as they are. And only the master shall blame, and no-one should work for fame, but each for the joy of working.”
The exhibition, which runs until August 31, can be viewed at Barewall Art Gallery – times vary. You can find out more here Arthur Berry.
*Arthur Berry’s Burslem Walk, a guided tour of the places which Arthur frequented, is taking place on Thursday 29th August at 6pm. The one hour tour costs £2.50 which can be paid on the day. Meet at Barewall Art Gallery.
Article by Jackie Gregory