Helen Layfield Bradley (1900 - 1979)
The tram to Hollinwood
Signed and with a fly, lower left: HELEN BRADLEY; also signed and inscribed on the artist’s label attached to the reverse
Oil on canvas-board 18 x 23 in – 45.8 x 58.4 cm
Framed 25¾ x 30½ in – 65.4 x 77.5 cm
'On an August Evening Aunt Mary took/George, me, and a boy called John Armitage on/the Tram to Hollinwood. This boy told us/that we would find Poplar Hawk Caterpillars/on the Poplar Trees in Weekentree Lane, so/we made butterfly nets and collected jam/jars. Aunt Mary got our tea early and/away we went on the Tram. When we/got to Hollinwood, sure enough the Poplar/Trees lined the Old Lane, and we were/delighted to find lots of Poplar Hawk/Caterpillars. Often, afterwards that boy/came with us and taught George and I/a great deal about Moths and Butterflies/and the year was 1909'
Private collection, UK
Helen Bradley was born in Lees, a village outside the industrial cotton town of Oldham. She was born just prior to the Edwardian era, a golden age, when Britain was the envy of the world, a confident wealthy superpower.
She began to paint only in her sixties in order to show her young granddaughter what life was like when she herself was a child. It was a time of prosperity and the extended family and her ‘naïve’ narrative paintings reflect this. Her works are documents of social history, always accompanied by a detailed description (see above), recording social conventions, costume, lifestyle, and portraying the growing urban sprawl. Whether she portrays an outing to Blackpool, a trip to Manchester, a day at the fair or carol singing in the snow, her paintings are full of familiar characters, Miss Carter, who always wore pink, the Aunts, and Mr Taylor the Bank Manager. Many of her works are illustrated in a series of autobiographical books, the first of which is “And Miss Carter Wore Pink, Scenes from an Edwardian Childhood”, published Jonathan Cape, London 1971. Bradley’s work was much admired by L. S. Lowry (1887-1976) and can be compared to that of the American artist, a contemporary, Grandma Moses (1860-1961).
Her works can be found in museums in: Oldham; Saddleworth and Salford.