Beryl Cook (1926-2008) was born in Surrey and left school at the age of fourteen to become a showgirl and to work in the fashion industry. Cook's painting career first began when she picked up her son's paints and painted a picture. She enjoyed it so much that she began painting on any surface in sight. “I don’t know how my pictures happen, they just do. They exist, but for the life of me I can’t explain them”.
In 1963, the Cook family moved to Plymouth where Beryl concentrated on painting in the winter months and then ran a theatrical boarding school in the summer months. A dealer then convinced her to let him sell some of her works, which in turn sold very quickly. Beryl’s first exhibition was held at the Plymouth Art Centre in 1975, which was a huge success and led her to then exhibit in London. Even though she started her artistic career rather late, she managed to produce over 500 paintings.
Cook’s shy personality was portrayed through a great contrast in her paintings. Her painting subjects are seen as colourful characters which she would love to have been. In September 2006, Portal Painters hosted her eighteenth solo show, which was particularly successful. In 2008, an exhibition was held at Plymouth University celebrating her life and showing a range of paintings from over four years.