Helen Layfield Bradley

(1900 - 1979)

Alice Ann and Jim Wilson are Married

Inscribed and dated 1968 on labels to reverse
Oil on canvas board
17½ x 21½ in – 44.5 x 54.6 cm 
 
Alice Ann and Jim Wilson are married.../She looked very neat and tidy and very/happy with her new found family./ She vowed to make Jim a good wife and/be a good mother to his four little boys./Mother and Grandma wondered if she was/ doing right "But" said Alice Ann, "I've/always loved little boys".../Mother and the three aunts slipped out of/Church to  put on their aprons and get the/kettle boiling./Everything was ready by the time the happy/pair walked across the square + Mother was the/first o welcome her. Miss Carter (who wore pink) +/Mr Taylor (the Bank Manager) are waiting to welcome/ her also and the year was 1907/Helen Layfield Bradley 1968 
 

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Provenance

The Carter Gallery, Los Angeles, California;
Private collection, USA 
Cousin Alice features in many of Bradley’s works, often taking Helen and her younger brother George to the park, with their dogs Gyp and Barney. The occasion of her wedding to the widower Jim Wilson was obviously important to Bradley’s family, and is the subject of at least three other related works; a watercolour of the couple and his four sons entitled ‘One Cold February Saturday’, a relatively rare head and shoulders portrait of Alice in her bridal gown and hat, along with an oil based on the family outing to Oldham to buy their wedding present. It is clear from the legend on the present work that her mother and aunts were in charge of the reception catering yet were the first to greet the newlyweds following the service. This charming composition is testament to Bradley’s ability to tell a story; yet her stories are all based on fact, and rather than undermining the veracity of an event, her naive style actually serves to distill it, leaving the viewer with its essential elements and pervasive atmosphere.

Biography

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.

Helen Layfield Bradley