The astonishing response to Beryl’s death at the age of 81 on May 28th 2008, both from the media and the general public, is a remarkable testament to her unofficial position as Britain’s favourite painter who’s lasting popularity amongst the public was in direct contrast to the dismissive view of the elitist British art establishment.
She first came to national prominence in 1976 when the Sunday Times published an article about her and her paintings. Within days we were meeting her in Plymouth and subsequently published her first signed limited edition The Four Hungry Cats in 1977. The Art Class followed in 1979 and we have been her publishers ever since, releasing at least one new title each year. In January 2008 the 40th title Dirty Dancing was released.
When we first published her work there was no market for humorous pictures of any description and it was difficult to persuade other galleries to stock her prints. Those that did sell her work did so because they personally believed in her and their commitment was backed by the response of the public who very quickly took Beryl and her sense of humour to their hearts.
Artists whose work truly stands the test of time and the vagaries of fashion and trends are few and far between. The fact that Beryl's pictures have been collected and enjoyed throughout the country for over thirty years is a testament to the true integrity of her painting as uniquely, Beryl painted solely for herself and no-one else; if a subject or incident amused her or captured her imagination she painted it and, having done so, she enjoyed that picture as much as anyone. For this reason paintings often remained in her possession for many months after they were finished. She painted what she wanted, not what anyone else wanted, and as her publishers we did not dream of trying to influence her painting in the way that many publishers do with their artists. Above all she painted ordinary people having a good time.
She was aware of her success but she was also aware of the negative aspects of over-exposure and this is why she was always been careful about the number of her pictures that were published as limited editions, both by us and her American publishers of her screenprints. Less restriction on the other hand was applied to her greeting cards, calendars and books because she felt that these were to be enjoyed by a wider audience.
For Beryl her pictures had a life of their own - ' I don't know how my pictures happen. They just do. They exist, but for the life of me I can't explain them' '. That they did and that they brought such delight to so many is enough explanation for us all.