1926 - 2008
Beryl Cook, OBE was an English artist well known for her original and instantly recognisable paintings. Often comical, her works pictured people whom she encountered in everyday life, including people enjoying themselves in pubs, girls on a night out, drag queen shows or a family picnicking abroad.
She was born on 10th September 1926 in Egham, Surrey. She attended Kendrick School, however, left education at fourteen and started work in a variety of jobs. Having moved to London towards the end of the war, Beryl attempted to work as a model and showgirl. In 1948, she married her childhood friend John Cook. They moved out to Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) where they would remain for the next decade, it was during this time that she produced her first ever painting, Hangover.
In the mid-sixties her and her family returned back to England, she focused more and more on her painting. Moving to Plymouth in 1968, Cook shared her time between running the guest house and producing more paintings. In the mid-seventies, her works caught the attention of one of their guests, who subsequently put her in touch with the management of the Plymouth Arts Centre, where her very first exhibition took place in November 1975. The exhibition was a great success and resulted in a cover feature in The Sunday Times. This was followed by an exhibition at the Portal Gallery in London in 1976, where Cook continued to exhibit until her death.
She was enjoying her growing popularity and her paintings were soon in high demand. Her first book of collected arts was published in 1978, and in 1979, a film was made for LWT’s The South Bank Show, where she discussed her work with Melvyn Bragg. Cook then collaborated with such authors as Edward Lucie-Smith and Nanette Newman by providing illustrations for their books. She continued to regularly publish books of her own artworks up into the early 2000’s.
In 1994, she received the Best Selling Published Artist Award from the Fine Art Trade Guild. In 1995, Beryl Cook was awarded the Order of the British Empire. She did not attend the official ceremony due to her shyness and accepted the honour at a quieter ceremony in Plymouth the following year. In 2002, her painting The Royal Couple was featured in the Golden Jubilee in London.
Beryl Cook died on 28th May 2008 at her home in Plymouth. Peninsula Arts of the Plymouth University mounted a major retrospective exhibition in November that year. In 2010, two of her paintings were used as part of the Rude Britannia exhibition at the Tate Britain.