Newlyn-based Bernard Evans, who has died after a short illness at the age of 85, was one of Cornwall’s foremost figurative painters.
A Liverpool lad, an accomplished musician as well as artist, he started the folk group, Newlyn Reelers, and was a stalwart of the Golowan Band.
Inspired by a school art teacher, he studied at Liverpool College of Art and Camberwell School of Art, where he was tutored by Martin Bloch. Rather like Bloch, drawing, composition, perspective and proportion were important features of his work. He believed that “over-abstraction of form led to a break with realism and an impoverishment of expression”.
It was while trying to teach a studenT how to play the guitar at London’s Institute of Education that he met and married Audrey. An artist in her own right, and the mother of their five children, she would later exhibit alongside her husband, whose first appointed teaching post was that of art master at a school in Bootle. He subsequently taught and lectured for some 20 years in Cheshire and Nottingham before, in 1977, moving to Newlyn where, with Audrey, they set up the Mount’s Bay Art Centre and where for a quarter of a century they were to teach landscape painting to students of all ages from around the world.
A devotee of “en plein air” painting, Bernard thought nothing of standing before an empty canvas on the pier during Newlyn’s annual fish festival and beginning a painting capturing the colour and atmosphere of the day’s events. An accepted and familiar figure on Newlyn’s harbour front and fish market, an area he regarded as his workplace, the many studies he made there add up to an illustrated social history of fishing. Only days before he died he was busily completing what was to be his last painting, yet another study of Newlyn harbour.
He exhibited widely throughout the UK, and many still remember the Evans’ family show, held in 1988 at the Queen’s Hotel in Penzance, comprised of paintings by him, his wife Audrey, and their artist daughter Elizabeth. Somewhat surprisingly, in recent years and in striking contrast to his Newlyn paintings, he made a series of works in the capital in which he looked at London’s huge scale and the diversity of form and life found in the areas bordering the Thames.
A deeply committed and caring man, he was highly critical of and campaigned strongly against the Arts Council’s funding policy for galleries. He was also treasurer of his local branch of Amnesty International. A Roman Catholic from birth, at his local church in Penzance he served as a eucharist minister and member of the choir, and it was said that his chief concerns were “Christianity, morality and art”.
He is survived by his wife, Audrey Evans, their five children, Robert, Catherine, Michael, Peter and Elizabeth, and 12 grandchildren.