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Brynhild Parker 

(Letchworth, Hertfordshire 1907-1987 Antibes, France) 


Young girl seated in profile, c.1925


pencil and watercolour on paper

38 x 25 cm. 


Provenance

By descent within the family of the artist


Brynhild Parker’s creative spirit was fostered from an early age. She grew up in an artistic family and community - her father was the cabinet maker and artist Stanley Parker, (who studied at Manchester School of Art with his lifelong friend, the artist William Ratcliffe). Stanley had been educated at Bedales School and returned there to help with the craft work, later becoming the craft teacher at St. Christopher’s School, in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, where Brynhild and her sisters were schooled. Letchworth was the first Garden City, a new town in the countryside less than 40 miles outside London. It had been designed by Stanley’s brother, the architect Barry Parker, with his cousin and brother-in-law, the architect Raymond Unwin, after the Utopian vision of Victorian social reformer, Ebenezer Howard (1850-1928). Stanley and family lived at 102 Wilbury Rd, a handsome arts and crafts villa designed by Barry, and William Ratcliffe was their lodger. Other contemporary neighbours at Letchworth included the artists Harold Gilman and Spencer Gore. Brynhild’s Swedish mother Signe played the piano, and theirs was a house filled with art and music; it was an idyllic, artistic childhood. 


There were three sisters, separated by three year gaps, Brynhild being the eldest. While Bryn studied at the Slade (1925-1928), her middle sister Phyllis studied at the Central School of Art and her youngest sister Lisa studied at the Royal College of Art. Phyllis and Lisa did not pursue their art as singularly as Bryn, who forged a successful career early on. Bryn was living in London in the early ‘30s at Myddleton Square in Clerkenwell, and her ties to that area were further cemented when she was invited to become a member of the East London Group of artists in 1930, with whom she had previously exhibited at the Young Painters Society. The East London Group had been created by John Cooper, also a graduate of the Slade. Bryn went on to exhibit continuously with them until 1936. She also held successful solo exhibitions at the Lefevre Gallery - in 1935 with 22 works, and in 1938 with 40 pictures. As well as painting, she illustrated books, experimented with lithography and designed advertising posters for Shell (held in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York). 


Bryn moved in an artistic circle that included the likes of the abstract artist Roger Hilton and his brother John (an academic, architect and intelligence officer), the Scottish artist Stephen Gilbert, Rowland Penrose, Erno Goldfinger, Ruth Collet (née Salaman), a fellow East London Group artist, and the Greco-American artist, Jean ‘Janko’ Varda. In the mid-‘30s she moved from her Myddleton Square apartment which she passed on to her sister Phyllis, to live in lodgings at Clement Square, Islington, with Roger & John Hilton, Dianna Furness (a fellow student from the Slade), and Michael Stuart, who was Roger Hilton’s close painting partner and later ambassador to Greece. John Hilton referred to their group as a ‘mini colony’, in a letter to Bryn’s sister Phyllis. 


After the war, seeking artistic and personal change, Bryn emigrated to the Nice area of France in 1949, where she mingled with Picasso among others, and ultimately moved in with the Communist-oriented abstract artist, Pierre Gastaud (1920-2009), in Antibes, where they lived together till her death in 1987.


Her paintings are held in a number of public collections, including Manchester Art Gallery, the Blackburn Museum & Art Gallery, the Beecroft Art Gallery, Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, Doncaster Museum & Art Gallery, Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum and the Ulster Museum. 


The artist’s biography in her own words, written c. 1960 when she was living and working in Antibes, as an advertisement for lessons in her studio, provides further insight in to her own appraisal of her work and life:


“Anglo-Swedish artist living in the old town of Antibes, gives private lessons in drawing and painting in her studio [1, rue Brulée, individual lessons at 50 fr per hour, small groups at 35 fr per hour each].

Diploma from the Slade School of Fine Arts, University College, London; has had one man shows at the Lefevre Gallery; shown in many mixed exhibitions in London and at the Bastion Gallery, Antibes, Galerie Cavalero, Cannes, and Galerie A in Nice.

Taught at Letchworth Grammar School, Letchworth, Herts, during the 2nd World War; was also visiting teacher in many private schools and later in France was one of the first teachers at the Centre d’Art Mediterrané run by Mr & Mrs Elleston Trevor.

Established in Antibes since 1952, turning gradually from figurative painting to abstraction, although always needing an endless contact with nature. 

Paintings in Municipal galleries in England and in many private collections, such as that of Mr Charles Aiken, late Director of the Tate Gallery, Lord Moyne and Countess de Raczynska, Antibes.”

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