Sven Berlin

Born 1911 in London to an English mother and Swedish father (paper merchant), Sven Berlin was an apprentice mechanical engineer before leaving that trade to enrol in the Beckenham School of Art at the age of 17.  He then began training as an Adagio dancer.

Retiring from dancing in 1938, he and his wife settled in a cottage on the Zennor moors. Sven Berlin studied under Hambly at Redruth School of Art. At the outbreak of war in 1939 he registered as a Concientious Objector; in 1943, however, he joined the Royal Artillery, taking part in the Normandy landings. Discharged in 1945 on medical grounds, he suffered from nervous shock and the breakdown of his marriage. Before joining the military, Sven Berlin had met Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Naum Gabo and also helped at the Leach Pottery. He became a leading member of the St. Ives Artist’s Circle and in 1946 was a founder member of the Penwith Society of Artists and the Crypt Group, which included Peter Lanyon, Brian Wynter and Sven’s close friend John Wells. On recovery from his breakdown, he rented an unoccupied building on the Island called 'The Tower', turning it into a sculptor's workshop. In 1950 he was evicted from 'The Tower' in order for it to be converted into a public convenience.

He subsequently remarried and moved to a house at Cripplesease which was destroyed by fire in 1952. The following year he bought a gypsy caravan, moving to the New Forest to live among the gypsies there. Sadly, though, things had not gone well between himself and his second wife Juanita, who eventually eloped with his groom Fergus.

He then met his third and last wife, Julie, to whom he remained happily married to the end of his life. The intensity of Sven Berlin’s feelings for Julie is touchingly shown in the countless sketches, paintings and other depictions of her. A move to the Isle of Wight, proved unsuccessful and he and Julie returned to the mainland, ending his days in the countryside he so loved, outside Wimborne, Dorset. Sven Berlin died in 1999.

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# Modern British Artists