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Remembering Shave Green

There are some remarkable images of the Shave Green Gypsies in the New Forest in the 1940s and 1950s. It is especially interesting to compare Sven Berlin's glorious oil paintings, such as Gypsy Mother and Child, with some rare early footage from Pathe News of the real thing. This painting was produced in 1966 after the very last days of the camp among the trees, when many of the Romany people were beginning their first days in council houses. Some would return to visit Sven and his family at Home Farm in Emery Down and recall the old days in the compound.

Berlin recalled his first glimpse of Rosie Hughes (later Smith) when he visited the New Forest in his youth. Faced with a job in London as an engineer he felt his glimpse of her as she disappeared into the trees was a turning point. He wrote later: 'a young woman wearing a red skirt and a thick black plait of hair hung over one shoulder and on to her yellow blouse, and at the end it was tied with a violet rag. Her face was almost black with high cheekbones and her eyes long and dancing..'

In 1966, the year of this painting, Berlin exhibited at the Bladon Gallery in Hurstbourne Tarrant again, was struggling to pay off the debts accrued in the legal fight over his book The Dark Monarch and was about to embark on the script for a short film for the BBC's Summer 67 series about the New Forest with Michael Croucher. The film was shown on 18 March 1968.


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