Graham Kingsley Brown, Artist and Poet, 1932 - 2011

Graham in cafe Graham in a cafe in Bideford, Devon, 2010, photographed by his eldest daughter, singer-songwriter Judith Christie.

Early Life
Graham Kingsley Brown was born in Hull, Yorkshire on 3rd May 1932, the youngest of four children, to Betty and Lesley Brown. As a child, he was evacuated to Beverley Manor during the second world war. He later won a scholarship to Beverley Grammar school, excelling in sports. In his youth, Graham devised poetic thoughts and phrases, and drew a self-portrait in the style of El-Greco: the first stirrings of an interest in art.

Family: Scotland, Lincolnshire, Ireland
After leaving school he joined the civil service, working in the customs office in Hull, where he met his Scottish wife to be, Elizabeth. They moved to Edinburgh, were married in 1956 and had their first child, Judith, in 1959. Adventurous and bohemian in spirit, they took up the role of wardens for Broadmeadows Youth Hostel in the Borders, where Sophie was born in 1961, and Graham began to write short stories. The family then moved to Barnoldby le Beck in Lincolnshire, while Graham worked for the National Assistance Board. Annabel, their third daughter was born 1962. A few years later, searching for something out of the ordinary, they emigrated to South West Cork, Ireland, starting by working in the Pottery ("Gurteenakilla" run by Frank and Christa Reichel) in February 1965. They lived simply but somewhat isolated, in a farmhouse in the unspoilt countryside at Coosane, before moving into the small village of Ballydehob nearby.

Postcard of Ballydehob, West Cork, Ireland - Copyright H&H Group Ltd Ballydehob village, South West Ireland: a postcard which actually has (from right to left) Graham's daughters Judith, Una and Sophie in the picture c. 1969.*

Here they met with others also interested in art and literature, who had come to live there from the States, England, and Canada. Graham's talent for writing and art was released and flourished, and Elizabeth took up weaving, both thereby contributing to the growing local arts and crafts movement in West Cork in the 1960's. Una, their fourth daughter was born on new year's eve 1967, in a house in the village.

Artistic work
In the years that followed, Graham wrote a number of poems, one of which was later published in a Macmillan anthology. He began to draw local landscapes in ink and colour wash, did painting and decorating, and painted objects including a cart, street furniture, signs and advertising boards. He also began painting pictures, selling some locally. Working in a variety of livelihoods to provide for his family, none close to his calling, and dealing with financial difficulties, perhaps led Graham's health to deteriorate to the extent which necessitated a move back to Lincolnshire and the support of his parents in Waltham in 1970 - where the family lived part in the house, part in a caravan in the garden!

North Devon
After a year of recuperation, the family settled in Bideford in 1971. Living in various locations around the town, and in the village of Westleigh, Graham explored his art further, alongside work as a part-time postman for several years. He worked in studios which included a stone shed, a rented studio space, and a room in the various rented houses they lived in. An upstairs room in their house in Lime Grove, Bideford , became his final studio for fifteen years.

Graham Brown Graham at Rosemoor, North Devon, at a family event to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary to Elizabeth.

During this period, Graham's energy and thoughts were, alongside his artistic life, taken up with various family concerns too: he helped care for Judith who became very ill for many years, Una had a car accident, and the family which had expanded with grandchildren and then great-grandchildren provided challenges and delight in equal measure. Graham later suffered physical setbacks himself - hernias, arthritis and finally cancer - but he carried on producing work regardless with Elizabeth's consistent support.

Artistic oeuvre
Graham's artistic oeuvre covered a wide range. In the visual arts, he produced paintings (oil, acrylic), drawings, graphic designs and posters (for a community project he produced graphic designs for), painted tiles, decorated breadboards, stones, furniture, sculpture, carved in wood, created moulded ceramics, slate reliefs, and collage cut outs. He was also a regular writer, and loved poetry, producing poems, haikus, humourous pieces and philosophical thoughts, such as the "108 Partial Truths". This body of artwork and poetry has, to date, been little exhibited or published. As a member of the Appledore Crafts Company for a few years, Graham held an exhibition at the gallery in 2000, which included poem pieces and visual art work, and also exhibited some work locally in North Devon.

Living in Westleigh village in 1978, Graham auditioned for a bit part in the film "The Shout" with Alan Bates, John Hurt and Susannah York which was being part-filmed in the village. He was cast, appearing as the village churchgoer who provided continuity in the plot by being the character who turned his head to see John Hurt's character enter the Church. His daughter Una was also in the film as an extra playing in the street. Later, Graham's dramatic ability was put to use, in several roles he played as a talented and enthusiastic member of the Renaissance Theatre for some years, enjoying acting, and singing, to good effect, in several productions.

Graham Brown

Graham was a wholly self-educated artist, reading avidly both on art, poetry and metaphysical subjects, and producing his works wholly from imagination. He had a great sense of humour, was devoted to truth and to "the Creator", had prodigious imagination and energy to express that in his work. He was a proud, compassionate and loving father and grandfather, a man of strong views, who valued the freedom of the individual, was stoical, modest, and also reluctant to show his work. Even in his final months up to December 16th 2011, plans for new work that he wanted to do, were very much in his mind.

The works here collected span the years from 1965 to 2011 - but predominantly from the latter years where work is still available - and have never been shown as a body of work before.


*Postcard by D. Noble of John Hinde Studios reproduced with Copyright holder's permission: ©John Hinde Archive

Back to top

Copyright © Estate of Graham Kingsley Brown 2011 onwards, All rights reserved | Terms and Conditions | On Twitter | On Instagram