Page last updated at 16:13 GMT, Wednesday, 28 May 2008 17:13 UK

Painter Beryl Cook dies aged 81

Beryl Cook

Artist Beryl Cook, known for her colourful and comic paintings of larger-than-life ladies, has died at the age of 81.

She died peacefully at her home in Plymouth on Wednesday with her husband and family at her side.

Cook had no formal training and did not take up painting until her 40s, but her work went on to become hugely popular.

An exhibition celebrating Cook's 80th birthday was held at the Portal Gallery in London in October 2006.

Jess Wilder, co-owner of the Portal Gallery, said: "It's very sad indeed. She was painting until very recently. We had a marvellous 80th birthday party here."

Cook's paintings document familiar social situations like girls on a hen night, in a nightclub or shopping, men in the pub, at a strip club or at the market.

The artist, who was previously described by comic Victoria Wood as "Rubens with jokes", once said: "I don't know how my pictures happen, they just do.

"They exist, but for the life of me I can't explain them."

Cook was born in Surrey in 1926, but had lived in Plymouth for over 25 years.

The large, fun-loving characters featured in her work were largely inspired by people in the city's pubs.

Beryl Cook
Cook painted women she saw in her local pub

And it was in Plymouth where her talent was first noted.

Cook and her husband, John, ran a guest house when they moved to Plymouth in the 1960s.

People staying at the house started talking about the paintings on display and an antique dealer friend persuaded her to let him try and sell some.

They sold quickly and she went on to hold her first exhibition in 1975.

Despite being largely snubbed by the art establishment, Cook's work became well-loved by the general public following a South Bank Show about her in 1979.

In January 2004 her characters starred in a two-part animated TV series, called Bosom Pals, made for the BBC.

In pictures: Beryl Cook exhibition
26 Sep 06 |  In Pictures
Beryl bursts into TV
28 Aug 99 |  Entertainment


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