Honister carving in granite
3 x 6.69 x 2ins (7.5 x 17 x 5cm)
Copyright The Artist
Sven Berlin was a multi-faceted artist and colourful character in the history of Modern British Art. Having left school at the age of twelve, he first trained as a dancer,...
Sven Berlin was a multi-faceted artist and colourful character in the history of Modern British Art. Having left school at the age of twelve, he first trained as a dancer, moving to Cornwall and taking up painting in the 1930s. As a pacifist and conscientious objector, Berlin worked on the market garden established by art critic Adrian Stokes outside St Ives, where he encountered Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, and Naum Gabo. After a change in his political views, Berlin enlisted in the armed forces and took part in the D-Day landings, an experience that would leave a lasting and traumatic effect on the artist. Seeking psychological solace, Berlin returned to Cornwall, where he joined the flourishing community of St Ives artists, and began to sculpt in the local, resilient granite. Unlike his peers, however, he rejected total abstraction in his work, admiring the more representational paintings of the local fishermen and untrained artist Alfred Wallis, whose biography Berlin published in 1949. This artistic stance served to isolate Berlin from the St Ives School, and led him to leave Cornwall for the New Forest in 1953. The publication of his fictionalised autobiography, The Dark Monarch, in 1962, caused further tensions, and led to a libel case being brought against him by his fellow artists, and Berlin’s financial ruin. Nevertheless, he continued to exhibit in London, and the 1980s saw a revival of interest in the work of this controversial yet supremely talented painter, sculptor, and writer.