top of page

Sven Berlin (1911-1999)

Painter, sculptor

and writer

Born in Sydenham, London, Berlin attended classes at Beckenham School of Art, encouraged by Henry Carr R.A.   His burning ambition to become an artist was diverted when he met his first wife Helga and they took to the music hall stage as adagio dancers.


It was not until 1938 that he resumed his art training and career when the couple moved to Cornwall and, as war broke out,  St. Ives. Initially a conscientious objector, he would meet the artists who would establish the Modernist movement (Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Peter Lanyon, Naum Gabo and others).  Having returned from service in WW2, he built a reputation as a charismatic sculptor and painter in his Tower studio at Porthgwidden Beach. He can be seen in the film below, having returned from service in WW2, walking across the rocks towards his studio.









In 1953, after bitter infighting in the St. Ives Society of Artists, the Crypt Group and the Penwith Society and determined to remain a representational artist, Berlin left the art colony with his second wife, Juanita, for the New Forest, in a Gypsy caravan. Here he would paint a memorable body of work recording the last days of the gypsy community living in Shave Green. (This was the subject of an exhibition at St. Barbe Museum & Art Gallery in Lymington, Hampshire, in 2003.)

Now well established in the New Forest, Berlin continued painting and writing (a total of ten books), but his marriage to Juanita came to an end in 1962 when she left with their groom, the Irish journalist Fergus Casey.

Sven in caravan (bowl  of fruit) April 1

Berlin’s time in St. Ives would come back to haunt him when he published his book The Dark Monarch in 1962, a roman à clef which painted an intriguing but unsavoury picture of the art colony and its thinly disguised members.


Berlin and his third wife Julia moved to the Isle of Wight in 1970 after a series of lawsuits relating to The Dark Monarch and he would not return to the mainland (just outside Wimborne in Dorset) until 1975.


Berlin continued his strict daily regime of painting, sculpting and writing until his death at the age of 88.


All Sven Berlin works shown in our Art Gallery are drawn from a private and unique New Forest collection which spans his entire output, reflecting every aspect of his extraordinary and colourful life.


Some works have been exhibited in the New Forest, Cornwall and, in Berlin’s lifetime, in London and elsewhere.  Read more on related exhibitions...

Bladon Gallery invitation 1956
Opening Night, Centenary Exhibition at St. Barbe
Opening The Dark Monarch envelope
Alison Bevan, John Paddy Browne and Greta Berlin at Penlee House. Photo Phil Monckton.
Timeless Man Shave Green show 2003
Sven at his first exhibition Camborne 1939

Click on the images above to show the following:

  1. The invitation to the Bladon Gallery (Hurstbourne Tarrant) exhibition in 1956 with Berlin's additional note that Lord Moyne attended.

  2. Opening night at the 2011 Centenary Celebration at St. Barbe Museum & Art Gallery.

  3. Art critic, artist and writer Peter Davies opens Berlin's Dark Monarch envelope on his 100th birthday as the artist requested, revealing the identity of the characters in his infamous book.

  4. Alison Bevan, former director of Penlee House Gallery & Museum in Penzance, celebrated Berlin's 101st birthday with his friend John Paddy Browne and daughter Greta Berlin.    Photo: Phil Monkton.

  5. On show at St. Barbe Museum & Art Gallery in 2003, Berlin's alabaster head Timeless Man and on the wall, his flamboyant oil Gypsies Dancing.

  6. Berlin, pictured at his very first exhibition in Camborne, Cornwall in 1939.


#SvenBerlin #BladonGallery #StBarbe #PenleeHouse #Cornwall



1939     May, Camborne Community Centre, Camborne, Cornwall

1946     January, St. Ives Society of Artists (STISA)

              September, Crypt Group, St. Ives;  Lefevre Gallery, London 

1947     May, Downing Bookshop, St. Ives  and STISA 

              August, Crypt Group, St. Ives

1947     August/September, The Leicester Galleries, London

                (Artists of Fame and of Promise)

             October/November, Mid-Day Galleries Manchester

             November, STISA travelling show, National Museum of Wales

1948    January  St. George’s Gallery, London

             May, Downing Bookshop, St. Ives. One man show

            July, Crypt Group show  

1949    Downing Bookshop,  St. Ives

1951     January/February Art and Craftsmen from around St. Ives, Heal’s Mansard Gallery

1954     Arthur Tooth & Sons Mayfair/London annual show - until 1959

1956     Bladon Gallery, Hurstbourne Tarrant

             Fox & Hounds, Lyndhurst, New Forest

1958    Mailman’s, Lyndhurst

1961     Aldine House (J.M. Dent), London

1965     June, Creative Art Patrons, London

1966     May/June, Bladon Gallery, Hurstbourne Tarrant

1967     Ogilvy & Mather, London

1968     Pace Gallery, Houston, Texas

1969     October, Hamwic Gallery, The Art Shop, Southampton

1969     Beaulieu Gallery (mixed show)

1970     Poole College Festival of Arts

1977      New Art Centre, London, Cornwall 1945-55 (mixed show)

1980    June/July, Higher Gaunts House, Wimborne

1981     November, Wimborne Bookshop 

1982     September, Wills Lane Gallery, St. Ives

1983     October, New Art Centre

1984     May, Liverpool International Garden Festival

1985     February/MarchTate Gallery, London, St. Ives 1939-64 and

              Michael Parkin Fine Art - Cornwall 1925-1975

1986     Yorkshire Sculpture Garden, Wakefield

1987/8 Roche Court, Salisbury

1989     November, Belgrave Gallery, London

1991     Deans Court, Wimborne

             Belgrave Gallery, London

1992     Belgrave Gallery, London

1992     Royal West of England Academy

1993    Deans Court, Wimborne

1994     April to October Tate St. Ives, Equivalents for the Megaliths

              The Book Gallery and Sims Gallery, St. Ives 

1995     Insight, Russell-Cotes, Bournemouth

1997     The Rime of the Ancient Mariner bicentenary, Grasmere, Cumbria

              Four Seasons Gallery, Wimborne (further annual shows followed)


Posthumous Exhibitions (Solo and Mixed)


2002    Hand & Eye, Study Gallery, Poole

2003    Paintings from Shave Green, St. Barbe Museum & Art Gallery, Lymington

2009    The Dark Monarch, Tate St. Ives

2010     The Dark Monarch, Towner Eastbourne

2011     Centenary Celebration, St. Barbe Museum & Art Gallery, Lymington

2012     Sven Berlin: Out of the Shadows, Penlee House Museum & Gallery, Penzance

2016     Book Launch: Sven Berlin Timeless Man, New Forest Heritage Centre, Lyndhurst

2018    Conflicting Views: Pacifist Artists, Otter Gallery, Chichester (mixed show)

2020   The Seasons. Art of the Unfolding Year, St. Barbe Museum & Art Gallery,

              Lymington (mixed show)

bottom of page