End of an era

Witnessing the recent studio sale of the remains of Sven Berlin’s prodigious output has been a memorable experience and one which has taken up lots of our time, mentally and physically. For four long days (oh! for the days when auctioneers didn’t have to wait for internet bids!) we joined the amazing team at David Lay Auctions in Cornwall. After many hours of reading and research, they had spent even more weeks sorting piles of paper, illustrated manuscripts and artwork into fascinating lots.


Admittedly some of it was in less than perfect condition, the result of years stored in a damp cottage. Not all the work served Sven well either, it must be said, with poor sketches and doubtful paintings produced late in life, working drawings and notes which surely Sven himself would never have put up for sale, although at desperate times in his life almost anything had potential!


Not to say there weren’t some wonderful gems as well as beautiful drawings and writings to enjoy and attract interest. Naturally, we did our best to rescue the most relevant ephemera, drawings and paintings, pieces which would enhance the collection here and throw light on the telling of the story of Sven’s life and work.


The Gypsy Woman, a commanding portrait (left) painted on a wood panel, certainly needed some careful restoration but it was worth the expense! Now back home in the New Forest joining the other Shave Green Gypsy paintings. Do you think you know her name? Very similar profile to the image (detail) on the right incorporated into the Gypsies Dancing oil (Christmas 1956, Pilley Working Man’s Club). What do you think?


Much to do yet, especially on the ephemera, but we will be sharing some of the delights we acquired from the sale and hope you will enjoy them. If you’d like to know more about Sven in the meantime we still have copies of our biography Sven Berlin Timeless Man which complements the reading of Sven’s own, often selective, autobiographical books, in a useful and revealing chronological fashion.