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12,000 GBP
0 Bid(s)
13,000 GBP
15,000 - 20,000 GBP
28.80 %
Live auction
Auction date(s): Apr 30
Lot location
Cardiff, Cardiff

HELEN BRADLEY MBE (1900-1979) oil on board - 'Oh where, Oh where can Gyp and Barney be!', lady with a lantern and children at play, inscribed on card verso detailing the 1906 occasion when Helen and Aunt Mary returned from a walk without the pet dogs, signed and dated 1972, 28.5 x 24cms

Provenance: private collection Cardiff

Auctioneers Note: Born in 1900 as Nellie Layfield in Lees, a small industrial town on the northern fringe of Oldham, Helen Bradley would become one of the nation's most loved painters, but not until her late sixties. Helen (who changed her name from Nellie by deed poll) was born into a well-established family of local business owners. She attended art school in Oldham where she met fellow student Tom Bradley, who was considered the star pupil. Following a long engagement, the couple would marry in 1926 with two children to follow, Peter born in 1927 and Betty in 1931. Whilst both Helen and Tom painted throughout their lives, and it was accepted between them that if either had a chance of painting professionally Tom was the stronger candidate, neither pursued this career initially. Throughout the interwar years Tom worked in textile manufacturing for a Manchester based firm who specialised in hand printed fabrics (including several Omega patterns by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant) whilst Helen kept the home. Following the Second World War, Tom's work led the family to relocate to Middlesex. This afforded Helen the opportunity to visit the National Gallery and British Museum regularly and to attend art school in Harrow. The family returned to the North West in 1952 when Tom took early retirement to allow him to focus on his painting which consisted of portrait and flower commissions. They initially settled in Cheshire before buying a cottage in Cartmel on the edge of the Lake District in 1964. Now in her 60s, Helen painted with a renewed vigour, traveling around the Lakes producing misty landscapes in watercolour, whilst Tom rented a second nearby cottage as a studio for his portrait work. Together the couple joined the local Saddleworth Art Society, through which Helen first met L.S. Lowry. She once expressed to Lowry that she had always struggled to paint figures and he suggested that she should 'paint someone you know well, go home and paint your mother'. This she did, and the resultant portrait proved to be an important turning point. Shortly after she began painting scenes from her own childhood that she would become so loved for, depicting a world full of incident viewed with innocence and rendered in exquisite detail. It was not until 1965, at the age of sixty-five that Bradley had her first solo exhibition. Staged by the Saddleworth Art Society to much local acclaim, it led to a request from Cork Street's Mercury Gallery for six of her works to be included in an exhibition of naïve art the next year. There followed a little over a decade of subsequent highly successful exhibitions in Britain, America and Japan, and the publication of many much-loved books and prints. Bradley enjoyed a broad public profile that few artists ever achieve; she was announced by the media as 'The Jolly Granny' and 'England's own Grandma Moses' (although she notes her personal inspirations as Avercamp and Turner). She was appointed an MBE in the 1978 Queen's Birthday Honours, but sadly died before her investiture.

Comments: Card reads, 'Oh where Oh where can Gyp and Barney be? We had been on a lovely walk that afternoon with the dogs romping along and enjoying themselves, but when we got near home they were not with us. We had our tea and still they did not come, so Aunt Mary lit the storm lantern and took George and me with her to see if we could find them. She asked some boys playing in Dove Street, if they had seen two little black dogs, "No Missus we haven't" they said, so sadly we had to return home without them and the year was 1906. Helen Layfield Bradley'. Framed, ready to hang.

Selections, Cardiff
Venue address
17 Llandough Trading Estate
Penarth Road
Cardiff, Cardiff
CF11 8RR
United Kingdom
Selections, Cardiff

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Auction dates
Apr 30, 2024 02:00 PM BST
Viewing dates
By appointment only
Auction currency
Buyer's premium
28.80 %
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