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Of Kings and Queens...

One of the delights of writing my biography of Sven was the need to delve intriguingly into the reasons behind his paintings and drawings.

This pen and ink ‘King and Queen’, now in the collection, was given by Sven to Roger Quilter, a photographer for United Press who freelanced for the Solent News Agency.

My research revealed that Sven was trying to give up drinking and smoking and wrote to his friend John Paddy Brown in 1967: ‘The Gentleman with the Golden

Face’, Count Cognac has stepped aside’. “This abstinence had left Berlin with an even more than usual overactive imagination as he wrote of ‘an angel on the Totton flyover’ and a ‘King and Queen who came in from nowhere and sat for me yesterday’ resulting in a pen and ink drawing and an oil painting.” p.236, Sven Berlin Timeless Man, Millersford Press, 2016.

After all, it is still Jubilee Year!

A recent note from Berlin's friend, John Paddy Browne, tells me that Roger Quilter’s assignments included photographing celebrity arrivals as they disembarked from the ocean liners in Southampton. Roger, and his wife Janet, lived in a street of terraced houses at the end of which the ships could be seen in the docks. One such arrival, in November 1953, was the S.S. United States carrying the coffin of Dylan Thomas on its way, via numerous pubs apparently, to his beloved Laugharne in Wales.

Footnote: Sven referred to his late parents Kalle (Karl) and Mary Louise as King and Queen, paying tribute to them in the foreword to his autobiography The Coat of Many Colours, entitled A Credit Account. He talks of them 'resting like sculptures of a King and Queen cut into a hill at Brighton...'


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