The Window of Soul linked to me so I went and had a look and found she had this great video:

Also, I see another fellow blogger into the skull themes and has designed this great skull, to see more please visit his blog: Track 6 Designs


Beryl Cook dies age 81

This lady is one of the famous painters of England and she did this in my hometown of Plymouth.  Don’t her painting look a lot like Fernando Botero‘s?

Beryl Cook: ‘I expected to paint like Stanley Spencer. It was a great disappointment to me when I realised that I didn’t’

Beryl Cook, who has died aged 81, was a one-time seaside landlady who became popularly known as “the woman who paints fat ladies”; with the possible exception of Jack Vettriano, there was no living British artist whose work was better known to the general public, yet the British art establishment fought for years to keep her paintings out of their galleries.

Beryl Cook painted what she described as “ordinary people enjoying themselves” and recorded the foibles of the British better than any documentary. Vulgar, raucous and straightforward, her paintings were as saucy as the seaside postcards of Donald McGill; she painted plump people in everyday and sometimes surreal situations, with special emphasis on bottoms and bosoms.

Among her cast of characters are fat, uninhibited matrons oozing out of corsets as they cavort on the dance floor; big-bottomed girls in leggings and stilettos wearing the self-satisfied smiles of the sexually alluring; and fat members of the working class lying on the beach, drinking in the pub or guzzling lobsters.

She claimed to paint people fat because “the bigger they are the less background there is to fill in”, yet her technique was not as simple as it seemed: Beryl Cook’s figures were always instantly recognisable types, their expressions eloquent of human emotions from salacious glee to gormless preoccupation, their comic effect achieved with a detached ironical eye which noted the details of their absurdity.

Beryl Cook’s paintings graced everything from stamps to school books, greetings cards and advertisements and she sold her paintings across the world. Yet the critics hated her: Time Out refused to include her exhibitions in its listings and the Tate never bought one of her paintings. Brian Sewell said of her art: “It doesn’t have the intellectual honesty of the Pig and Whistle. It has a kind of vulgar streak which has nothing to do with art.”

Yet infuriatingly for the artistic establishment, her paintings, (produced at a rate of about one a fortnight) commanded up to £20,000 apiece; even more infuriating was that Beryl Cook herself seemed to share their low opinion of her own work. “I know there are some artists who look down on my work,” she said, “and when you compare mine with some of the others, I can see what they’re getting at.”

People invariably wanted to know whether Beryl Cook was fat like her paintings. In fact she was neither fat nor jolly, but thin, almost pathologically shy and extremely neurotic, so much so that several interviewers concluded that her painting was an outlet for the repressed desires and emotions she never dared to express.

She had a disconcerting habit of laughing uncontrollably when uneasy; disabled people or dwarves would reduce her to wheezy hysterics and she could not sit in an audience at a theatre without bursting into fits of nervous giggles. Not surprisingly she rarely gave interviews and never attended private views or publicity events for her own work.

She had such a phobia of formal social situations that she never had people to dinner or went out to dinner: “I’d be completely tied and there’d be no escape whatsoever.” She did her socialising in pubs, but always sat next to the door “because I know I’ve got a means of escape”. When in 1996 she was appointed OBE, she “simply could not” go to London to meet the Queen, though she felt sorry for her family who would have enjoyed it. Instead, she agreed to accept the honour from the Lord Lieutenant in Plymouth, though she vetoed a civic reception.

Despite her fame and wealth, Beryl Cook continued to live a life of breathtaking ordinariness. Only her terraced house, off Plymouth Hoe, where she lived with her husband John, her dogs and two tortoises, reflected something of the cheerful tastelessness of her paintings, with garden gnomes, antimacassars on the velour three piece suite, ancient lamps advertising Guinness and collections of cruets and Art Deco dancing girls.

She was born Beryl Frances Lansley at Egham, Surrey, on September 10 1926, one of four sisters. Her father, an engineer, walked out on the family when she was very young and her mother, an office worker, moved to Reading where Beryl and her sisters were supported by their paternal grandfather.

Beryl went to Kendrick Girls’ School, Reading, but left school aged 14 to train as a typist. During the war, she became a showgirl, but out of shyness soon gave it up. She also worked briefly but unsuccessfully as a secretary before helping her mother run a tea garden near Hampton Court.

In 1948 she married John Cook, a merchant seaman whom she had first met at the age of 10 when his family moved next door to hers in Reading. She spent much of their first decade of marriage alone while her husband was at sea, but after he left the Merchant Navy in 1958 he took a job with a motor company in Rhodesia and the family (their only son, John, was born in 1950) moved with him and lived in Rhodesia for the next seven years.

Beryl disliked Rhodesia: “I didn’t like being so far from the sea and I couldn’t bear the social life which revolved around parties because there wasn’t anything else to do.” She loathed Zambia (her husband’s next posting) even more, and within nine months, the Cooks were back in England.

It was, however, in Zambia that Beryl Cook began to paint, after her husband had given her a child’s paint box for her fortieth birthday. Her early efforts disappointed: “I expected to paint like Stanley Spencer,” she confessed. “It was a great disappointment to me when I realised that I didn’t.”

Back in England, hard up and unable to find a job, she turned again to painting to occupy her time and to decorate the walls of their cottage at Looe, Cornwall.

After moving to Plymouth in the early 1970s, Beryl Cook took in lodgers to help pay the bills. In 1975 one lodger, a young actress appearing at the Plymouth Arts Centre, spotted her talent and suggested to the Centre’s director that he should go and look at her paintings. He persuaded Beryl to give an exhibition; her work was spotted by a national paper and so fame and fortune began.

Beryl Cook did not allow success to go to her head, nor was she ever interested in money, leaving the business side of things to her husband. She continued to buy her clothes from market stalls and remained a regular at the Dolphin pub on the Plymouth quayside. “When I was younger,” she said, “I steeled myself to do so many things I really didn’t want to do. Now I realise I do not have to do anything. Consequently I lead a very happy life.”

Nevertheless her income enabled her to give up taking lodgers and to afford the “luxury” of employing someone else to do the housework. It also enabled her to travel in search of subjects for her paintings and she produced books of paintings depicting low life in New York and London. In 1998 she and her husband, John, moved to Clifton in Bristol.

Despite her prodigious output there was always a waiting list of people wanting to buy her paintings; Whoopi Goldberg and Jackie Collins were among her customers. But it was only in 1996, nearly 20 years after she had her first exhibition, that she had her first public hanging — at the new Museum of Modern Art in Glasgow — of a picture of the Scottish comic character Rab C Nesbitt on the steps of Number 10, Downing Street.

Beryl Cook produced several books of collected pictures and illustrated a number of works by other authors, including Christopher Isherwood’s Mr Norris Changes Trains; The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh, and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark.

Her contribution to The Queen’s Golden Jubilee, The Royal Couple, featured in the Golden Jubilee Exhibition, May 2002, at Art London, Chelsea.

Two half-hour animated films of Beryl Cook’s women who meet at Plymouth’s Dolphin Pub were broadcast in 2004 and won several animation awards. In 2006 the Portal Gallery in London held a comprehensive exhibition of Cook’s work to celebrate her 80th birthday.

A retrospective exhibition of her work was curated by Peter Doroshenko at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, in 2007.

Plymouth University will be mounting a major retrospective in November 2008.

Her husband survives her with their son.

The Art of Spain

I watched this programme with pure enthusiasm, it was so inspiring. Not only did the presenter give you a fascinating insight into the art of Spain but also the filming was beautiful, the filtering used made the whole programme seem so warm and made you just feel like being there with him and touching the paintings as well as soaking up the beautiful surroundings.

Critic and art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon travels from southern to northern Spain to tell the story of some of Europe’s most exciting and vital art. In the final part, he reveals how the north of the country has produced some of the most dazzling and iconic art of the modern age. Spain’s turbulent history has shaped artists from Francisco Goya to Pablo Picasso. Graham-Dixon argues that Spanish architecture is the art form now taking the nation forward in the new millennium.

In pictures: 1,000 years of art in Spain

Pablo Picasso's Guernica at the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid
Historical scars … Pablo Picasso’s Guernica at the Reina Sofia museum, part of Madrid’s Paseo del Arte. Photograph: AP

“Spain has produced some of the most startling and original art ever created… the art we need to know about, because it holds the key to understanding all of Europe and its culture,” says Andrew Graham-Dixon at the start of his three-programme, thousand-year journey for BBC Four, The Art of Spain, which begins tonight. En route from southern, Moorish Spain via the “golden age” of the court in Madrid to the modernists and surrealists of the north, he encounters the zeal of both believers and non-believers: his own passionately pursued mission is to make Spain more prominent on a wider cultural map.

While Italy has always occupied pride of place in western art history, he argues that the Spanish experience has played a central role in making us who we are – and for Spanish read, in substantial part, Arabic and Islamic. It’s a story of territorial and political conflicts, as well as religious. But it’s also a story of how, having looked into the abyss, people can hope for better times.

The scars of the civil war of 1936 to 1939 survive in memory, landscape and works such as Pablo Picasso’s Guernica; even that vision of a horrific air raid has a dignity that enables it to avoid total bleakness. The greatest single act of violence, evident to us now from the emergence of Spain as a nation, is the one frozen in architecture when a 16th-century Catholic nave was imposed on the Mezquita, the great mosque of Córdoba, started in 784. Yet as the emperor Charles V ruefully acknowledged, it was the older building’s seemingly endless forest of arches, expressing a much more democratic, non-hierarchical conception of the relationship between a worshipper and his god, that came out the winner.

When the invading Moors – the Arabs and Berbers of north Africa – took Córdoba in 711, they made it into one of the great cities of the world. In the congenial environment of Andalusia they created a culture that could also encompass the other two peoples “of the book”, Christians and Jews, with a rare degree of enlightenment. They made every aspect of life – eating, drinking, bathing – into a work of art, and had a deep commitment to learning.

Their grasp of mathematics overflowed spectacularly into the intricate patterns that filled every inch of their most splendid buildings. The motivation was religious – to avoid the representation of God or living beings – and the combination of ornate decoration with water-filled gardens at the Alhambra palace in Granada came close to creating the illusion that paradise, the garden that awaits the righteous, can be made on Earth.

So when Spanish Christians began making inroads into the Moorish territories, they were still happy to retain what had become the dominant style in such buildings as the castle-palace, the Alcázar, in Seville. Its tile work, as Graham-Dixon puts it, forms “almost hallucinogenic patterns”.

The Reconquest, completed in 1492, was accompanied by a particularly fervent form of Catholicism. Philip II, king from 1556, sought to unite his people through piety, giving them art that would invite them to prayer through the presentation of unmistakably clear stories. This fusion of religion and power found architectural expression through the magnificently austere palace-monastery of El Escorial. Meanwhile, in Toledo, El Greco produced paintings of a much more mystical character than appealed to the king.

To Graham-Dixon, everything is more intense in the art of Spain, “as if the volume’s been turned up”. In the self-imposed trials of St Teresa of Avila, he finds an extreme form of performance art, conducted in the cause of love, charity and poverty; after her death, she contributed to art objects of a particularly mystical and morbid kind through the encasing of her body parts in reliquaries. There is more austerity to be found at the monastery of Guadalupe, where Francisco de Zurbarán’s cycle of paintings of St Jerome and the monks of his Hieronymite order captures the ideal of piety with almost minimalist simplicity.

Towards the middle of the 17th century, Spain’s power was beginning to seep away. Philip IV took solace in art, above all that of his court painter Diego Velázquez, now free to add the immensely sympathetic depiction of working people in simple settings to his duties of royal portraiture. The religious imperative had faded, and an utterly secular artistic view of the world emerged.

By the time of the Napoleonic wars at the start of the 19th century, Francisco Goya was taking art into uncharted doubt with his “black” paintings and Disasters of War prints. It took until the beginning of the next century for Antoni Gaudí to find renewed cause for hope, expressed through the natural curves of Park Güell and the Pedrera apartment block in Barcelona. His incomplete Sagrada Família shows how tied he was to the Catholic past, but was looking entirely to the art of the future, and his most celebrated admirer was Pablo Picasso.

In Graham-Dixon’s view, Picasso never lost his attachment to a profoundly superstitious way of looking at the world; even in the ostensibly rational approach of cubism, subjects seem to shimmer and hover as if in a vision, like the Moorish sculpture that has the effect of turning stone into lace. Take, too, the sexual energy of his work, and he re-enchants the landscape of the modern world. Joan Miró creates a paradise of dreams and fantasies, and Salvador Dalí’s best, early work conveys a compelling sense of the mysterious, made more intense by the fear of death – again, an echo of a much older and deeper yearning for contact with God. Thereafter, Luis Buñuel took up the godless exploration of fantasy in film, and Graham-Dixon turns finally to the sculptural architecture of Santiago Calatrava for a harmonious contemporary resolution of different elements in the troubled story of Spain’s artistic soul, in the Bodegas Ysios winery building in the Basque country.

The key element that television adds to the buildings and works of art is landscape – and indeed skyscape – as Graham-Dixon provides glimpses of buildings and paintings far beyond the best-known centres. Though he makes his own sympathies and enthusiasms clear, finally he lets the art speak for itself: after all, in the words of the marquis of the conquest, a descendant of Francisco Pizarro, who used the riches of the Incas of Peru to fund the outlandish 16th-century film-set architecture of Trujillo: “In every story there’s light and shade.”

The Guardian

Skull Art

Jafabrit is at it again, she has come up with some wonderful paintings of skulls, click the skull below to see more on her blog.

It reminds me a bit of the Damien Hirst skull which sold for $100m.
You never know maybe someone will pay that much for  Jafabrit’s, I much prefer hers though it is so much more artistic and from the comments she has received it looks like it has also been very inspiring to others.   Keep up the good work!
If you want to read more about the Hirst skull look no further:

Dead valuable … For the Love of God, by Damien Hirst. (AFP: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd)

A diamond-encrusted skull by British artist Damien Hirst sold on Thursday for $US100 million ($123 million), a record price for work sold by a living artist, a London gallery announced.

The work, entitled ‘For the Love of God’, is a skull cast in platinum and encrusted with 8,601 diamonds. Carbon dating has shown that the original skull on which Hirst’s work is modelled dates to the 18th century.

Hirst remains best known for earlier conceptual works in which creatures including a shark and a cow were pickled in formaldehyde inside glass tanks.

The diamond-encrusted skull was sold to an group of anonymous investors, a spokeswoman for the White Cube gallery in London, where it has been on display from the beginning of the summer, told AFP.

Death is one of the central themes in works completed by Hirst, 41, who once said that the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States were like a work of art, but later apologised.

Frida Kalho

Frida Kahlo (July 6, 1907 – July 13, 1954) was a Mexican painter who depicted the indigenous culture of her country in a style combining Realism, Symbolism and Surrealism. An active communist, she was married to Mexican muralist and cubist painter Diego Rivera. She was known for her self-portraits, often expressing her physical pain and suffering through symbolism. In the last three decades she has gained admiration in Europe and the US. In 2002, Julie Taymor directed a biographical movie about Kahlo (Frida; Salma Hayek starred). The film sparked even further interest in Kahlo’s life and work. Her house in Coyoacán, Mexico is a museum and visited by a large number of tourists every year.

Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird – 1940

Childhood and family

Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón, as her name appears on her birth certificate, was born in 1907 in her parents’ house, known as La Casa Azul (The Blue House), in Coyoacán, which at the time was a small town on the outskirts of Mexico City. Her father, Guillermo Kahlo (1872-1941), was born Carl Wilhelm Kahlo in Pforzheim, Germany, the son of painter and goldsmith Jakob Heinrich Kahlo and Henriett E. Kaufmann. Kahlo claimed her father was of Jewish and Hungarian ancestry, but a 2005 book on Guillermo Kahlo argued that he was descended from a long line of German Lutherans. Wilhelm Kahlo sailed to Mexico in 1891 at the age of 19 and, upon his arrival, changed his German forename Wilhelm to its Spanish equivalent, ‘Guillermo’. Until the late 1930s, in the face of rising Nazism in Germany, Frida acknowledged her German heritage by spelling her name “Frieda” (an allusion to “Frieden”, which means “peace” in German).

Frida’s mother, Matilde Calderón y Gonzalez, was a devout Catholic of primarily indigenous descent mixed with Spanish. Matilde frowned upon the wild games Frida and her younger sister Cristina played. Frida’s parents were married shortly after the death of Guillermo’s first wife during her second childbirth. Their marriage was largely unhappy. Guillermo and Matilde gave birth to four children (where Frida was the third of their four girls) and having two older half sisters, Frida grew up in a world surrounded by females. Throughout most of her life, Kahlo was close to her father.

The Mexican Revolution began in 1910 when Kahlo was three years old. In her writings, she recalled that her mother would usher her and her sisters inside as gunfire echoed in the streets of her hometown which was extremely poor at the time. Men would occasionally leap over the walls into her backyard and her mother would sometimes prepare a meal for the hungry revolutionaries. Later, Kahlo would claim that she was born in 1910 so people would directly associate her with the revolution.

Kahlo contracted polio at age six, which left her right leg looking thinner sometimes than the other (a deformity Kahlo hid by wearing long skirts). As a girl, she participated in boxing and other sports. In 1922, Kahlo was enrolled in the Preparatoria, one of Mexico’s premier schools, where she was one of only 35 girls. Kahlo joined a gang at the school and fell in love with the leader, Alejandro Gomez Arias. During this period, Kahlo also witnessed violent armed struggles in the streets of Mexico City as the Mexican Revolution continued.

In September of 1925, Kahlo was riding in a bus when the vehicle collided with a trolley car. She suffered serious injuries in the accident, including a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a broken pelvis, eleven fractures in her right leg, a crushed and dislocated right foot, and a dislocated shoulder. An iron handrail impaled her abdomen, piercing her uterus, which seriously damaged her reproductive ability. Though she recovered from her injuries and eventually regained her ability to walk, she was plagued by relapses of extreme pain for the remainder of her life. The pain was intense and often left her confined to a hospital or bedridden for months at a time. She would undergo as many as 35 operations in her life as a result of the accident, mainly on her back and her right leg and foot.

Career as painter

Frida Kahlo with Diego Rivera in 1932


Frida Kahlo with Diego Rivera in 1932

After the accident, Frida Kahlo turned her attention away from the study of medicine to begin a full-time painting career. The accident left her in a great deal of pain while she recovered in a full body cast; she painted to occupy her time during her temporary state of immobilization. Her self-portraits became a dominant part of her life when she was immobile for three months after her accident. “I paint myself because I am often alone and I am the subject I know best” reflects her inner feelings about both her art and her psychological state. Frida’s mother had a special easel made for her so she could paint in bed, and her father lent her his box of oil paints and some brushes. Drawing on personal experiences including her troubled marriage, her painful miscarriages, and her numerous operations, Kahlo’s works are often characterized by their stark portrayals of pain. Of her 143 paintings, fifty-five are self-portraits, which frequently incorporate symbolic portrayals of her physical and psychological wounds. While Kahlo’s paintings have a distinct unrealistic quality, she insisted “I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.” It is evident that her paintings reveal a personal truth about her life, her experiences, and her inner personal emotion. Kahlo was deeply influenced by indigenous Mexican culture, which is apparent in her paintings’ bright colors and dramatic symbolism. She frequntly included the symbolic monkey: in Mexican mythology it was a symbol of lust, yet Kahlo used them as tender and protective, even nurturing symbols. Christian and Jewish themes are often depicted in her work as well; she combined elements of the classic religious Mexican tradition with surrealist renderings. While her paintings are not overtly Christian they certainly contain elements of the Mexican Christian style of religious paintings.

Stormy marriage


Frida Kahlo (center) and Diego Rivera photographed by Carl Van Vechten in 1932


Frida Kahlo (center) and Diego Rivera photographed by Carl Van Vechten in 1932

As a young artist, Kahlo approached the famous Mexican Diego Rivera, whom she had previously admired, and asked him for his advice on pursuing art as a career. He immediately recognized her talent and her unique expression as truly special and uniquely Mexican. He encouraged her development as an artist, and began an intimate relationship with Frida. They were married in 1929, to the disapproval of Frida’s mother. They were often referred to as “The Elephant and the Dove.” The nickname originated when Kahlo’s father noticed their extreme difference in size.

Their marriage was often tumultuous. Both Kahlo and Rivera had notoriously fiery temperaments and both had numerous extramarital affairs. The openly bisexual Kahlo had affairs with both men and women (including Leon Trotsky); Rivera knew of and tolerated her relationships with women, but her relationships with men made him jealous. For her part, Kahlo was outraged when she learned that Rivera had an affair with her younger sister, Cristina. The couple eventually divorced, but remarried in 1940; their second marriage was as turbulent as.

Later years


La Casa Azul


La Casa Azul

Active communist sympathizers, Kahlo and Rivera befriended Leon Trotsky as he sought political sanctuary from Joseph Stalin‘s regime in the Soviet Union. Initially, Trotsky lived with Rivera and then at Kahlo’s home, where he and she reportedly had an affair. Trotsky and his wife then moved to another house in Coyoacán where he was later assassinated.


A few days before Kahlo died on July 13, 1954, she wrote in her diary: “I hope the exit is joyful – and I hope never to return – Frida.”. The official cause of death was given as pulmonary embolism, though some suspected that she had died from overdose that may or may not have been accidental. An autopsy was never performed. She had been very ill throughout the previous year and she had had her right leg amputated at the knee (owing to gangrene). She had also had a recent bout of bronchopneumonia that had left her quite frail.

In Diego Rivera’s autobiography, he later wrote that the day Frida died was the most tragic day of his life, adding that, too late, he had realized that the most wonderful part of his life had been his love for Frida.

The pre-Columbian urn holding her ashes is on display in her former home La Casa Azul (The Blue House) in Coyoacán, today a museum housing a number of her works of art and numerous relics from her personal life.


In her lifetime and for most of the 20th century her work was not recognized with the value and appraisal it is now given, she was largely remembered just as Diego Rivera’s wife. It was not until the early 1980s when in Mexico the main artistic movement known as the Neomexicanismo started, that actual stardom began. In this -ismo the note was in the recognition of all the values of contemporary Mexican culture; it was the moment when artists like her, and Abraham Angel, Angel Zárraga or Helguera’s classical calendar paintings and others, went into full household name status. During the same decade appeared several different vehicles – helping to establish her success. The movie Frida, Naturaleza Viva (1983), directed by Pablo Leduc and with Ofelia Medina and Juan Jose Gurrola as Frida & Diego, which would be a huge success even to the point where the actual protagonist remained for the rest of her life in a sort of Frida’s spell even now into the 21st century still depicting her character. Also during the same time appeared Haydeen Herrera’s determinant and influential biography: Frida: The Biography of Frida Kahlo, a worldwide bestseller. In addition Raquel Tibol’s – (the most influential Mexican art critic for the second half of the 20th century, and a personal friend of Frida’s) own effort: Frida Kahlo: una vida abierta; and a biography by Teresa del Conde, and texts by other Mexican critics and theorists like Jorge Alberto Manrique. Fridomania started and many artists particularly the Mexicans: Adolfo Patiño aka ‘Adolfrido’, Marisa Lara, Arturo Guerrero, Lucia Maya and Nahum B Zenil took Frida’s imaginings into their own work and transported her interests and obsessions into the 1980s. Ironically at the beginning of the 21st century Diego Rivera is now partially remembered as Frida Kahlo’s husband.

Frida Kahlo, Self Portrait Between Borderline of Mexico and the United States. (1932)