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Beecroft Art Gallery is Essex’s largest permanent collection of historic and contemporary art with a year-round programme of free temporary exhibitions of art, fashion and photography.


Art Unlocked is an online talk series by Art UK in collaboration with Bloomberg Philanthropies. This Curation is based on a talk by Kevin Lang-Marsh, Assistant Curator of Art Exhibitions at Southend Museums Service, on 11th May 2022. You can find a recording at: https://youtu.be/LLYglMbuXhg

6 artworks
  • Brynhild Parker was born in Hertfordshire in 1907 and studied at the Slade School of Fine Art. Having exhibited her work with the Young Painters’ Society alongside future members of the East London Group, Parker was invited to exhibit with the group. A show at Alex. Reid and Lefevre in December 1930 began her association with the ELG that would see her contribute to all group shows thereafter until 1936. Following the war, she taught art at Letchworth Grammar School before relocating to Nice. She became part of the vibrant art scene on the Côte d’Azur which centred around Pablo Picasso, alongside whom she exhibited in many shows.

    Windy Day on Marine Parade, Southend c.1925
    Brynhild Parker (1907–1987)
    Oil on canvas
    H 49 x W 59.5 cm
    Southend Museums Service
    Windy Day on Marine Parade, Southend
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Southend Museums Service

  • Margaret Thomas is remembered, in particular, for her still lifes and her flower paintings, which were an inexhaustible subject for her. It was said of her work that she sometimes found unexpected beauty at the point when most people would consign the flowers to the dustbin. Her studies took her from the Slade School of Fine Art to the Royal Academy Schools and when it was relocated to Wiltshire during the Second World War, Thomas further developed her love of nature. Following the war, she built up a career with portrait commissions and solo exhibitions. Her first painting to be exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition was Still Life of Norfolk Ham in 1943 and she would go on to exhibit for another 46 consecutive years.

    Easter Parcel 1958
    Margaret Thomas (1916–2016)
    Oil on canvas
    H 72 x W 85 cm
    Southend Museums Service
    Easter Parcel
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: Southend Museums Service

  • Leo Hardy was the Head of Southend School of Art during the years that followed the Second World War. During this period he created and established part-time and evening classes and by 1949, 600 students had enrolled. At this time paid models were also recruited for life study classes. Described by one ex-student as a "wonderful, decrepit, tin and cardboard arcadia where learning began", Southend School of Art was nevertheless a significant and progressive hub that supported and encouraged many into careers in the creative industries that would not have been possible without Hardy’s progressive leadership and encouragement. This evocative and recognisable scene was purchased from the artist in 1972.

    Saturday Morning at Priory Park c.1952
    Leo Hardy
    Oil on board
    H 49 x W 74.5 cm
    Southend Museums Service
    Saturday Morning at Priory Park
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Southend Museums Service

  • Norman Blamey had a long teaching career, firstly at the Regent Street Polytechnic, then the Chelsea School of Art and the Royal Academy Schools, where he was responsible for the teaching of life drawing. As with many of Blamey’s works, the paint surface is heavily textured as a result of his technique of applying paint with the edge of a palette knife to the ground on which he was working. This process would often take several months to complete and may have partly directed him towards subjects regularly available to him. Blamey's work offered an emotional intensity generated by his closeness to the models, his handling of the relation of the figures, and expressive distortions in perspective.

    Proximity 1960s
    Norman Charles Blamey (1914–2000)
    Oil on board
    H 167.5 x W 104 cm
    Southend Museums Service
    Proximity
    © estate of Norman Blamey. All rights reserved, DACS 2022. Photo credit: Southend Museums Service

  • Elizabeth Sorrell’s work was a combination of technique with attention to detail, whether she was observing the natural world, or the textural quality of lace, silk, or porcelain. She said, “In earlier years, I painted a good deal outdoors, but as circumstances compelled me to be indoors more than out, I have more recently found myself evolving a sort of animated still-life picture”. She developed rheumatoid arthritis in her late 40s, but managed to carry on working to the highest standard until the very end of her life. She studied at the Royal Academy, where she came across and was encouraged by Paul Nash who regarded her as one of the finest and most original watercolourists of her time.

    The Bird's Nest 1976
    Elizabeth Sorrell (1916–1991)
    Watercolour on paper
    H 14 x W 19 cm
    Southend Museums Service
    The Bird's Nest
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: Southend Museums Service

  • Karolina Larusdottir was born in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1944. Her watercolours, oil paintings and hand-made etchings are often inspired by her childhood in Iceland which appears to be the case here. Her work contains a wry humour that enhances the surreal and timeless quality of her depiction of people, her favourite topic. Her use of bold block primary colours in this work is very striking. Her work is featured in numerous international private and public collections including those of The British Museum, The Vatican and the Icelandic National Collection.

    Sunday Visit to the Summerhouse 1994
    Karolina Larusdottir (1944–2019)
    Oil on canvas
    H 39.5 x W 49.5 cm
    Southend Museums Service
    Sunday Visit to the Summerhouse
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: Southend Museums Service