Wednesday 27 August 2008
Andrew Lambirth's excellent obituary of Jean Cooke [11 August] refers to the stormy relationship she had with her husband, John Bratby. I can vouch for this,
writes Patrick Shovelton. In 1954, soon after they were married and living with Jean's parents in Blackheath, John, arriving home at 3am very drunk, found himself locked out. The residents of Dartmouth Row were somewhat shaken to be awakened by police and ambulance sirens as Jean arranged for John to be taken to hospital, bleeding profusely, having put his fist through the glass panels of the front door of the Cooke's Victorian villa. This undoubtedly saved John's painting career.
I also remember my wife and I dining with them at their house in 1969. As Jean served baked beans, John passed round multiple Polaroids depicting the nude figure of his latest mistress. Jean cheerfully admitted that she had already taken an axe to the door of the love nest – all this in tones of conviviality and amusement.
As Lambirth indicates, it was amazing that through these tensions, whilst bringing up four children, Jean was able to continue to produce portraits, landscapes and still-lives of tranquillity and great merit.
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