Salford Art Gallery Catalogue 1973.

Introduction by Tom Bradley.


Helen Bradley was born in Lees, on the outskirts of Oldham, in the year 1900. As a child she was interested in art, and for a time attended the Oldham School of Art where her main interests were embroidery and jewelry. When the First World War came, she had to leave to help her father in the family business and she remained with him until she was married in 1926 to Tom Bradley, a textile designer. They had a son and a daughter, and seven grandchildren.

At the age of 65 Helen Bradley began to paint pictures of scenes of her childhood, to show her grandchildren what life was like when she was a child. What formal training she had, was long ago forgotten. This was perhaps fortunate as she was able to bring to her work the frank and uninhibited outlook of the child, whose impressions of what was going on around her she endeavoured to portray. This she has done with evident pleasure to herself, and to the great joy of thousands who have seen her paintings and the reproductions in her book. She has, in her paintings, created her own dimensions of great charm. As L.S. Lowry has said, "Helen Bradley is unique". She has touched the hearts of both old and young.

Her paintings are full of busy people, and in her pictorial treatment of them, she is greatly influenced by the early Persian and Moghul painters, feeling happy in depicting the figures, in a flat decorative style, without roundness and without shadows. Her painting technique is entirely her own, and derives little from traditional methods. Skies, backgrounds, and distances, are put in by sweeping the colour on to the canvas with the palm of her had, and then scraping out such things as tree branches, or divisions in stones or brickwork. Turner influenced her in her efforts to create atmosphere. Distinctive features of her work are the lovely warmth of colour she produces in skies and distance, and the feeling of warm sunlight which illumines her rows of brick houses, and cotton mills. All her paintings are the subject of a story. She remembers, with uncanny detail every-day episodes, and recalls them so naively. All her work reflects her feelings as a child, and is not the backward-looking thoughts of an adult.

The everyday affairs of her family and immediate friends, form the substance of her recollections. Most of these characters recur frequently, such as Miss Carter (who wore Pink), and Mr. Taylor (the Bank Manager), the aunts, grandma, Emily Maitland, brother George, the dogs Gyp and Barney, and the rather despised Willie Murgatroyd. Miss Carter and the Bank Manager's attentions feature prominently, and so popular have these figures become that we have heard of three 'Miss Carters' appearing at a fancy dress ball in London.

Helen Bradley has had two exhibitions in London, and one in Los Angeles. These were quickly sold out. Her last exhibition in London in 1971 was sold out at the preview and her two paintings at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 1973 were also sold at the preview.

A most important event was the publication of a book of her paintings and stories in 1971. This book, AND MISS CARTER WORE PINK, published by Jonathan Cape Ltd., was an immediate success. Its appeal was so spontaneous that a first printing of 20,000 copies, was followed by a further for 10,000 before publication date. It was also published in the U.S.A, Germany and France. Her second book, from the same publishers will appear in October this year and is called MISS CARTER CAME WITH US. This was also published in the U.S.A, and promised to equal, or even possibly be a greater success.