Dark Monarch reflections

Some fascinating insight relating to the publication of Sven Berlin’s now infamous book The Dark Monarch has come from Toni Carver, Editor of the St. Ives Times & Echo. Reflecting, in parody, the artist community in which Sven found himself in the 1940s and 1950s, the book was published in 1962 and caused a furore and great irritation among those who found themselves sometimes cruelly caricatured.

Toni Carver, Editor, St. Ives Times & Echo reporting at the 2011 Sven Berlin exhibition at St. Barbe Museum & Gallery Lymington.
Toni Carver reporting on Sven. Pictured at the Centenary Exhibition (August 2011) at St. Barbe Museum & Gallery in Lymington. Photo: John Paddy Browne

Nevertheless, the original drawings from the book proved popular at a 2019 exhibition in the Belgrave Gallery in St. Ives. In his introduction for the catalogue, Toni looked back to his first encounter with the book, which had been reviewed for the newspaper.


“My first introduction to Sven Berlin’s Dark Monarch came in the form of an unbound proof copy sent to the St Ives Times & Echo for favour of review…

Sadly, the nature of the text distracted from the glorious illustrations which never got a mention.

The year being 1962, I was still a schoolboy with an ever increasing interest in art. Picking up the proof copy, which had drifted up to my parents’ house, it was the illustrations that immediately struck me. The sharpness, confidence and clarity of line not only capturing the essential character of this quaint old Cornish town of the 1940s and 50s, but also magically evoking something of the atmosphere of those times. An extraordinary tour de force from a master draftsman.”


Many thanks, Toni, for permission to reproduce your text here.