John Bratby; Painted Seedy Side of Life

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

John Bratby, whose stark, angry pictures incorporating beer bottles, trash cans and other seedy items pioneered the once-lauded but later derided "Kitchen Sink School" of painting, has died. He was 64.

His family said he collapsed outside his home in the southern coastal resort of Hastings on Monday. No cause of death was reported.

Bratby's greatest debt was to the Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh but his skewed view of domestic life was mainly inspired by the realist painter Walter Sickert.

His output was prodigious--up to three paintings a day at some periods and, between 1967 and 1986, more than 1,000 paintings of such celebrities as the Queen Mother Elizabeth, actor Sir Alec Guinness and pop star Paul McCartney.

Bratby's works hang in London's Tate Gallery and New York's Museum of Modern Art. He also painted works used in the 1958 film "The Horse's Mouth" and the 1985 television series "Mistral's Daughter."

Bratby trained at London's Royal College of Art. He left with three major awards in 1954 and the same year staged his first one-man exhibit in London.

The Times of London said at the time that standing in front of his work, one could imagine "what it would have been like to be confronted with a Van Gogh for the first time."

His work was seen as part of the "Angry Young Men" movement launched in the 1950s by playwright John Osborne and other young newcomers tired of the austere drabness of life and the arts in Britain in the years immediately after World War II.

One of Bratby's best-known pictures of the period is "Jean and Still Life in Front of Window," showing his first wife crouching naked behind a table heaped with beer glasses, overflowing ashtrays, cornflakes packets and other household items, all made more garish by piles of thick paint.

His popularity was eclipsed in the 1960s by the fashion for abstract art. His portraits were often condemned by critics as garish.

But after years of neglect, he resurfaced to critical favor in 1991 with a retrospective show of his drawings at the National Portrait Gallery and a group show titled "The Kitchen Sink."

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