New Year musings

Sven Berlin was rarely idle during the winter, however harsh, and each New Year brought renewed ambition.


In 1946, as reported in The Cornishman newspaper on January 17, Berlin had just been accepted as a member of the St. Ives Society of Artists and was represented in the first winter exhibition at the Society’s new art gallery at the Mariner’s Church, joining, at the same time as John Wells, a plethora of well-known artists including Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson. The following winter, spent in his studio The Tower, saw temperatures plunge to below -20C and the Scilly Isles covered in seven inches of snow.


The New Forest in the snow held magic but also brought hardship as Sven recorded in his painting Gypsies in the Snow from 1955, having fought his own battle against the cold in the woods when he arrived with his wife Juanita and son Jasper in 1953.

Almost ten years later he wrote to his friend John Paddy Browne on 27 December 1964, describing an abandoned excursion to visit Lepe (near Southampton) in the snow:

‘We wanted to see it under this sudden change, this metamorphosis that takes place in winter, but the moors towards Beaulieu were already piling up and the snow driving horizontally across. I did not think we would get there….’

He added: ‘Christmas was good, but somehow removed from itself. We were drunk Christmas Eve and equally sober all Christmas Day when relations came to exchange presents by the fire and have a glass of gin: this I enjoy…. I look forward to a year of work… After some weeks painting, now my excitement when I see a stone begins to stir and I have a curious ache to get into the workshop and stay there for some months…’