Helen Bradley (1900 – 1979). Our Helen Bradley Painting; ‘Oh Jane, is it bad news?’ is signed, inscribed and dated. It has the following narrative on the reverse: ‘”Oh Jane, is it Bad news”, cried Miss Carter (who wore Pink)/when she saw mother turn pale as she read the letter/which had just arrived by the afternoon post./”Oh dear me, it’s Anne”, and a tear slowly trickled/down Mother’s cheek. “She’s left Willie, and, she/says is now on her way to London”. “She says/Willie has told her that she must put aside/all thoughts of traveling abroad, and/settle down to Husband, Home, and Child/and she cannot face a future so bleak./”Dear Miss Carter, will you come with us to/Blackpool to tell Grandpa, we must catch the/early train tomorrow and perhaps if we all/went to London we may find her and bring her/back” and the year was 1901/Helen Layfield Bradley 1971’ (on a label attached to the reverse). The painting is an oil on canvas-board and measures Height 15¼ inches x Width 13½ inches. (H38.7 cms x W34.3 cms.). It is available for sale £POA subject to prior sale. (item 323).
Helen Layfield Bradley (MBE) was born at 58 High Street Lees, near Oldham in 1900. She only took up painting when she was over sixty as a way of showing her granddaughter what life was like when she was a child in the Edwardian era. Helen both painted and told the story, describing her relatives and friends and the happenings of her early life with sardonic humour. This narrative is often included on the reverse of the works.
Typically Helen Bradley paintings portray the close-knit community of a Lancashire Mill town with its clogs and shawls and ‘Sunday Best’. The paintings capture too, the customs and occasions which highlighted her environment. Whether a depiction of carol-singing in the snow, market day, an outing to Blackpool, fairgrounds and funerals, bread-baking or a day at the races, the same loved characters make their appearance. The three maiden aunts with their sweeping muslin skirts, their friend Miss Carter (who always wore pink), Mr Taylor the Bank Manager, Willie Murgatroyd the mill lad who was always fighting, Helen herself and her brother George and the dogs Gyp and Barney.
The paintings are primitive in style, idyllic in mood, and are as accomplished as they are imaginative. Many books have been published and translated into many different languages. She was on the best sellers list in the early 1970’s before her death in 1979 by which time she had painted a total of 680 paintings in a variety of mediums including watercolours, oil and gouache.
Unfortunately Helen Bradley passed away shortly before she was due to receive her MBE for her contribution to the arts from Her Majesty the Queen.