After St. Ives
The Berlins' arrival in the New Forest from St. Ives in Cornwall, in a Gypsy caravan, inspired a new body of work. The Shave Green paintings and drawings of the last remaining Gypsies living in the Forest reflect the hardship they endured, their strength of character and Berlin’s affection and respect for this disappearing lifestyle.
The Berlins began to exhibit their work locally and there was an ambitious carving commission for Sven, The White Buck, a bas-relief in Etruscan marble weighing 7½ tons, for a factory overlooking Southampton Water.
There were exhibitions and press and TV coverage, with the support of Berlin's publisher Dent's Galley Press, and his influential patrons.
Visits to the Camargue and the annual Gypsy Festival of Les Saintes-Maries brought artistic inspiration and Berlin’s oils, watercolours and pencil drawings are full of its wild atmosphere.
He returned to complete his book on WW2, I am Lazarus (1961), incorporating a number of the drawings made at the time, and to continue work on the fateful St. Ives parody, The Dark Monarch (1962). Berlin’s love of fishing coalesced in Jonah’s Dream (1964); the 52 illustrations for the book are held in the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
When his marriage to Juanita failed, Berlin met Julia, his third wife, 33 years his junior, and they were married in September 1963. At the same time legal challenges to his unsavoury portrayal of characters in The Dark Monarch began.
Berlin continued to paint: self portraits, his children Greta, Paul, Jasper and Juanita's son Will, who were now living with him, the Gypsies who visited, and commissions such as the pen and ink illustrations for Animals in Splendour by his friend Elliott Grant-Watson.
But the 1970s brought upheaval, a move to the Isle of Wight where, unable to access his workshop to carve stone and cast bronzes, he continued to paint and wrote avidly, completing his books Dromengro - Man of the Road and Pride of the Peacock.
His manuscript A Poet's Notebook, containing writings, illustrations and poetry, became an outlet for his innermost thoughts and his all-absorbing exploration of life.
The Berlins returned to the mainland in 1975, a move to Wimborne where he was able to resume his dedicated and ambitious carving, writing and painting routine. His themes were primarily inspired by the natural world, his passion for self-portraits and a spiritual search to understand the forces in life that shaped human experience.
Interest in his work was rekindled in the early 1980s with the growing fascination for the history of the art colony in Cornwall. There was a show at Wills Lane Gallery in St. Ives, following a highly successful exhibition in Wimborne in 1981.
After a flourish of activity, Berlin withdrew to write his ‘svenography’ and continued producing manuscripts and carving, his work and historical connections still attracting interest in St. Ives. His shows at the Sims Gallery and at The Gallery Bookshop in 1994 coincided with the launch of his book The Coat of Many Colours.
As he approached his 80th year, Berlin began a series of semi-historical paintings: Wandering Jew, Sleeping Gypsy, Lightning-struck Horse, reflecting on his heritage and his life in the New Forest, and recording the second part of his life Virgo in Exile.
Berlin would continue to find an appreciative audience, all the time continuing to write and paint, and when his health and strength allowed, carve stone.
Berlin’s days were filled with creativity and a yearning to capture the truth, something he did with resilience and fortitude until his final days in December 1999.