Caught by the River

Caught By The Reaper – Bryan Pearce

26th December 2007

Bryan Pearce, July 21, 1929 – January 11, 2007.

Stephen Barrett remembers St Ives artist, Bryan Pearce, who we lost in January ;

My first recollection of Bryan Pearce was outside the Sloop Inn in St Ives, about 40 years ago.
I was around 21 and had escaped the city to breathe the fresh air of Cornwall.
The tradition of Sunday evening in St Ives meant the Salvation Army would play sweetly to those that listened; this was the place that this quiet unassuming man seemed very happy as he sort of hummed the tunes that flowed from the horns pointing skywards as the evening drew in.

My journey in St Ives often took me into tiny back-street galleries, artistic institutions and friendly kitchens, where we drank either cups of tea or sake, made by the students of the Leach Pottery. These homes were magical places, many full of colourful paintings, pottery and sculpture and vibrant postcards depicting the beauty of St Ives and Penwith. Some of the postcards were particularly dazzling, original and naïve. This was the work of Bryan Pearce.
I was immediately drawn to this innocent naïve style of painting and naturally collected the cards and when I could afford would purchase a limited edition print and later a much-treasured water colour. I saw Bryan Pearce every day in St Ives, often walking on his own seemingly making mental notes on the days events. I noticed he would often be looking up! Then down, then long, long gazes towards Godrevy lighthouse and the blue horizon that is St Ives bay.
Exhibitions were created and his work was duly lauded, often being compared with Alfred Wallis the celebrated naïve painter discovered by Kit Wood and Ben Nicholson some thirty years previous. Bryan though was different as he suffered an illness as a child that rendered him a very slow learner, the mind being trapped in a simple form one which appeared to be beautifully child-like and pure. Painting what appeared to be simple two-dimensional pictures were the result, but you know what, they made you smile, made you feel warm, made you feel good to be alive.
Bryan was in good hands as his mother guided him through the artistic maize with deft skill. He never knew about the politics and business of art. Never knew about the prices his work was making, never knew anything other than his beloved town, his playground.
On one of the rare occasions of a conversation with Bryan I remember him saying he had knowledge of one of his recent paintings being sold. This was reason to celebrate by purchasing a Salvation Army record from the local shop, to play no doubt just like we all did in the privacy of his room.

His work has found fame around some of Europe’s finest galleries and institutions, often representing St Ives and its rich cultural Cornish heritage.
Bryan died in January 2007, but left a legacy of simple beauty; Go find!

  • website
  • Stephen Barrett – Christmas Day 2007 – restaurateur and angler

  • Stephen’s website