Sven Berlin (1911-1999)
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.
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...
Click on the images above to show the following:
The invitation to the Bladon Gallery (Hurstbourne Tarrant) exhibition in 1956 with Berlin's additional note that Lord Moyne attended.
Opening night at the 2011 Centenary Celebration at St. Barbe Museum & Art Gallery.
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.
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.
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.
Berlin, pictured at his very first exhibition in Camborne, Cornwall in 1939.
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)