Brenda Bury – A Local Artist Rediscovered

Freelance curator Melissa Gallimore reveals details of a previously unnamed artist of a painting on display at The Cooper Gallery

For any fans of the BBC’s Fake or Fortune they will know that sometimes working in a gallery involves acting like a detective and piecing together clues about a painting to decide who the artist is. For many years this painting has been in the collection at the Cooper Gallery but the artist was unknown. Now with the help of the Art Detectives (curators and researchers) on ArtUK we have discovered that this painting is by an important, female artist who was born in Barnsley in the 1930s.

Watercolour painting of Rowland Addy. He is sat down wearing a blue suit with a red tie. His hand are crossed on his lap. The background is obscured but he appears to be outdoors.
Reproduced with kind permission of the artist

For many years this painting has been referred to as, ‘Colonel Rowland Addy’ but research over the last few years has enabled us to provide further information about both the sitter and the artist. The painting is signed in the bottom left corner and dated 1961 but it was unclear which artist’s signature it was. An image of the signature was placed on Art UK and with the help of @artukdotorg’s Art Detectives, the artist of this portrait was identified as Brenda Bury.

Brenda Bury is stood in front of a coloured portrait.
Brenda Bury with one of her portraits, Mrs. Rose Wolfe

Bury is a British portrait painter who has spent most of her career working in both the United Kingdom and Canada. What is most exciting is that she was born in 1932 in Brierley very close to Barnsley. She was a talented artist from a young age and won a number of local prizes for her work. Throughout her career she has painted portraits of royalty, dignitaries and politicians including HM Queen Elizabeth and Margaret Thatcher.

portrait of Queen Elizabeth II seated on a throne. She is wearing a white dres with matching necklace and tiara
Bury’s portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II from the Royal Automobile Collections, read more about this painting here:

The subject of the painting is Colonel Rowland Addy who lived in Brierley from when he purchased Brierley Hall in 1916 until he retired to Scarborough in 1948. It is possible that Addy was aware of this talented young artist in his village when he was living there. When the portrait was commissioned in 1961 it may have been Addy who thought to ask Brenda Bury even though at that time he was based in Scarborough and Bury was splitting her time between Toronto and the United Kingdom.

black and white photo of Brierley Hall, there are two cars parked in the foreground.
Photograph of Brierley Hall, courtesy Barnsley Archives

Addy was the MD of Carlton Main Colliery Company and owned collieries across South Yorkshire including Brierley. As well as being the archetypal industrialist he also had a keen interest in art and collected paintings, including watercolours by J M W Turner. In 1978 his wife gifted his paintings to the Cooper Gallery in her will in memory of her husband as he had passed away in 1963.

She also painted Alderman McVie and his wife when he was Mayor of Barnsley in the 1950s which is also held by Barnsley Museums. Barnsley Archives and Local Studies have portraits of every former Barnsley Mayor. Barnsley Archives also hold the family papers of Alderman McVie who was the Mayor of Barnsley when Queen Elizabeth first visited in 1954

With the help of the Art Detectives the link between the painting of Captain Addy and an important, local, female artist has been made allowing the gallery to add to its knowledge about the collections and local history.

Brenda Bury on Art UK

Screenshot of the Art UK website

You can see more artwork by the artist on the ART UK website:

You can also see more paintings and other Barnsley Museums collections on our website which we are adding to on a regular basis:

have you read our previous blogs?


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