As a young hairdresser in the 1990’s, Sarah Donaldson didn’t expect to form a friendship with one of Britain’s most popular and recognisable artists of the time. Most Friday’s Beryl Cook would visit the Derry’s Hairdressers in the Plymouth City Centre where Sarah would cut her hair and chat about anything from cruise ship holidays to health matters. Sarah lived on the Barbican and had a connection with the artist who would often depict Barbican characters in her popular paintings.
Sarah was wed to Gary in 1995 and her hen night was a big event out on the Plymouth Barbican. She went out proudly wearing her big hat that her work friends had made and recalls seeing Beryl in the Dolphin Pub; sat in her usual place by the piano with her husband John. Just a week later the artist, whilst at the hairdressers, presented Sarah with a small painting with a note on the back inscribed ‘A Bride to Be, from Beryl and John Cook’. This unique wedding gift has been has been cherished by Sarah ever since.
Some months later two fine paintings were released by the artist titled ‘Hen Night & Hen Party II’. It is highly likely that the painting given to Sarah was the inspiration for these works. In particular the ‘Hen Party II’ is a near match to the small painting, although the hat is a slightly different shape. The principal work can be found in the Glasgow Museum Resource Centre.
Beryl Cook was born in Surrey in 1926, and moved to Looe, Cornwall in 1965 where she took up painting simply to decorate the cottage walls. In 1968 she moved to Plymouth where her art really took off following an exhibition in November 1975 at the Plymouth Arts Centre. This led to shows at the Portal Gallery, London and a fan base of UK and international collectors keen to acquire her often comical and instantly recognisable paintings. Many of her works were inspired by people whom she encountered in everyday life, often saucy fun paintings of ordinary people enjoying themselves in pubs or shopping with many inspired in Plymouth. Beryl died in 2008.
Sarah has now decided to sell the work so she can perhaps treat her family to a cruise ship holiday similar to one that she heard so much about while talking to Beryl.
Auctioneer Paul Keen says “We are delighted to handle the sale of this fabulous small painting by one of Britain’s most popular and recognisable artists. It comes with perfect ‘Plymouth’ provenance!”
The painting carries an estimate at £6,000 to £7,000 and will go to auction at Plymouth Auction Rooms on the 24th November.