Helen Layfield Bradley

(1900 - 1979)

"Ah, Dear Emily’, said Mr. Taylor”; "Oh, just look’, said Mother”

A pair;
one signed and with a fly insignia, lower right: HELEN BRADLEY;the other signed and with a fly insignia, lower left: HELEN BRADLEY;
One inscribed on a label attached to the reverse:
‘Ah, Dear Emily’, said Mr. Taylor (the Bank Manager), as he took her hand.  Emily Maitland was taking a short walk through the park when she met Miss Carter (who wore pink) walking with Mr Taylor.  ‘Dear Emily’, he said again, still holding her hand and looking at her so intently that she couldn’t lift her head, and as Miss Carter watched, Emily felt herself going the colour of a Beetroot, and the year was 1908.  
The other inscribed on a label attached to the reverse:
 ‘Oh, just look’, said Mother.  ‘If that isn’t Mr Taylor (the Bank Manager) with Miss Carter (who wore pink) and they’ve met Dear Emily’.  ‘Oh’ said Aunt Mary, ‘Just look how he’s holding her hand’. ‘Oh my’, said Aunt Frances, ‘Look how pink she’s gone’, ‘I wonder what he’s said’, ‘Oh’, said Mother, ‘Just look at Miss Carter, we shan’t half have a time with her going home, we must all pretend we haven’t seen anything’.  ‘I wonder if he’s beginning to change his mind, but he can never marry Dear Emily, she promised her Father that she would never leave her Mother’.  ‘Isn’t it a pity, she’s so sweet’, and the year was 1908. 
Each oil on board  
12 x 9¾ in – 30.5 x 24.7 cm
Frame size
16¾ x 14½ in – 42.5 x 36.8 cm

Tel.: +44 (0)20 7839 7693

Provenance

Private collection, UK 
Much of Bradley’s appeal lies in her depiction of the North of England following the turn of the century; the dominant factory buildings, trams with advertising hoardings, local shops, town halls and fairgrounds. She was equally able to capture the behaviour of the era. The present pair of works depict a seemingly innocuous encounter in the local park; there is however, a subplot that bears tribute to Bradley’s powers of perception and observation. Mr Taylor, the local bank manager, appears in a great number of her works and, in the vast majority of them, is charming a member of the opposite sex and was clearly considered a very eligible bachelor. The ubiquitous Miss Carter, allegedly the first character Bradley ever painted, is one of a number of potential matches for Mr Taylor but his head is turned when he encounters Emily Maitland. Bradley, her mother and two aunts witness this meeting from a distance, know they will hear Miss Carter’s version of events and agree to feign ignorance. While the event is treated with levity and humour, it is nevertheless a window to the particular mores of polite Edwardian society.

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