Sven Berlin 1911-1999


Sven Berlin was a painter, sculptor, poet, and writer. Born in south London he studied at Camborne and Redruth Schools of Art in Cornwall before settling in St Ives in the late 1930s. Devoting himself to painting with Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and Van Gogh as his main inspiration, Berlin supported himself working in a market garden run by art critic and painter Adrian Stokes.


A flamboyant and bohemian character he merged remarkably well with the rather conservative members of the St Ives movement and was accepted into the circle of artists that included Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, and Naum Gabo.


At the end of the war, having served in the D-Day landings, Berlin returned to a St Ives community that was undergoing many changes. In 1946 together with Peter Lanyon, John Wells, and Bryan Wynter, he founded the Crypt Group, which supported and promoted progressive young artists, arranging exhibitions in St Ives and London. Although a founder of the important Penwith Society, he resigned in 1949 in protest at attempts by Hepworth and Nicholson to change the aesthetics of the group. This break and the ongoing struggles between traditionalists and modernists in St Ives may have led to his isolation from the mainstream Cornish artists. Berlin left Cornwall in 1953 and settled in the New Forest where he and his wife lived with the local gypsy community.  


By 1970 he had moved to the lsle of Wight, relocating after five years to Wimborne in Dorset. Despite numerous disappointments and career interruptions, he exhibited quite extensively with Arthur Tooth Galleries in London and The Penlee House Gallery in Penzance. He has works in several permanent collections including St. Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, Lymington and Bournemouth and Poole College of Art.