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Phyllis Bray

Biography of Artist

Born 30th August 1911 - 1991

She was a painter of still life, figures, landscapes and a lithographer.

Bray was a significant talent and an integral part of the history of one of the major artistic movements to come out of the East End in the last century.

Phyllis was born in Norwood: her father William de Bray was attaché to Maria Fyodorovna, mother of the murdered Russian Tsar Nicholas II.

After studying at Queenwood, Eastbourne she attended the Slade School of Fine Art from 1927-31. Here she was fortunate to catch the end of Henry Tonks’ distinguished professorship. She received a Slade Scholarship in 1930/31 and 1931/32 and won the Slade Summer Competition Prize and a Slade drawing prize.

In 1928 the ‘East London Art Club’ was created by Bray’s then husband John Cooper.  The debut exhibition of work by the East London Art Club was at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in the December, part of which was shown at what is now the Tate Britain.  Phyllis Bray began her participation by showing two paintings at the second exhibition in December 1930, among a total of ninety catalogued works, and each year after that her paintings and drawings became important features of these group shows. 

She painted murals in The Peoples Palace (1936) but instead of painting direct onto plaster as she originally proposed, Bray would undertake three panels on canvas, each twelve feet by ten feet, and the subjects would be The Dance, The Drama and The Music.

As a London Group member Phyllis met the German refugee, Hans Feibusch in 1933 and they went on to collaborate over nearly forty years on many mural projects the most notable of which were at Chichester Cathedral and Dudley Town Hall and numerous provincial London churches such as St Crispin’s, Bermondsey and St Alban the Martyr, Holborn. She exhibited widely in mixed shows through the thirties and forties and was also in great demand for commercial work for companies such as John Lewis Partnership, London Transport and Shell. Working for many publishers she also produced book cover designs and illustrations. In later life Phyllis continued to paint but her indomitable spirit was sorely tested by the onset of Parkinson’s disease which eventually forced her to give up her work

Many artists, writers and composers enter a twilight period after death while their work is reassessed. Some recover and others do not, yet Phyllis Bray is one enjoying a positive reassessment with two recent events spotlighting her work.

The first was the refurbishment of the People’s Palace in Mile End, where part of her large mural The Drama has been restored and is now on permanent display. The other is the first exhibition for eighty years of the East London Group, where one of her finest paintings is on display – The Lobster & The Lighthouse, portraying the now-demolished lighthouse at Braunton in Devon.

She was also in great demand for commercial work for companies such as John Lewis Partnership, London Transport and Shell. Working for many publishers she also produced book cover designs and illustrations. In later life Phyllis continued to paint but her indomitable spirit was sorely tested by the onset of Parkinson’s disease which eventually forced her to give up her work

Bray exhibited at all London Group exhibitions, at the Lefevre Gallery, Leicester Gallery and the Royal Academy. She had a one woman show at the London Gallery in 1949 a one woman group of pictures at Wildenstein in 1950 and she also has pictures in Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; and the Blackpool Art gallery. A memorial show was held at Collyer-Bristow in 1998 and a studio sale at Duncan Campbell Fine Art in 2005.

Exhibited at:-  Cooling & Sons Gallery x 6

                       Goupil Galleries x 1

                       Lefevre Gallery x 50

                       Leicester Gallery x 3

                       Royal Academy

                       Society of Women Artists x 1

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Oil on Canvas

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Size: 24 x 36

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Jesus and the Fish by

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Size: 34 x 23"

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A Study of Fish by

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Size: 20 x 24

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A Woodland Landscape by

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Size: 23 x 35"

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An Extensive Woodland Landscape by

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Size: 27 x 46"

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A Country View by

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Size: 23 x 35"

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Fields of Sunflowers by

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Size: 19 x 29"

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Size: 23 x 35"

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The Overhanging Trees by

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Size: 22 x 34"

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A Still Life of Sea Shells by

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Size: 18 x 30"

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The Toy Boat by

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Size: 27 x 35"

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A Still Life of a Statue by

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Size: 23 x 35"

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Angels by a Fountain by

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Size: 24 x 36"

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A Field of Sunflowers by

A Field of Sunflowers

Size: 25 x 30"

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