BIRTWHISTLE, Iris Mary

1918 - 2006

IM Birtwhistle

Iris Mary Birtwhistle, was born at Pleasington Lodge, Houghton, Blackburn, Lancashire on 29 May 1918, second of the eight children of James Astley Birtwistle (1889-1975) and his wife Mary Muriel née Marwood, who married at Blackburn, Lancashire in 1915. In the 1930s, Iris studied at the Bauhaus-influenced Reimann Art School in London, but turned her attention to writing lyric poetry. At the outbreak of the Second World War, she enlisted as an officer in the Wrens and on demobilisation, Birtwistle turned her back on London and, although unmarried, adopted three sons and in 1950 they settled in Suffolk. Iris tried her hand at portrait photography but set up her first gallery, selling drawings for a fiver by a young and then unknown David Hockney, and she scoured the art schools for new talent. In 1960, she opened an art gallery at Walberswick, Suffolk, which was followed by one at Ipswich and, despite her eyesight failing from hereditary glaucoma which rendered her blind for the last fifteen years of her life, in the late 1970's, opened Deepdale Exhibitions, on the north Norfolk coast. During which times she championed the likes of Mary Potter [q.v.], Mary Newcomb [q.v.], Jeffrey Camp [q.v.] and Philip Sutton (born 1928), who spent three years at Snape, Suffolk 1955-1958, all painters who went on to take their place in the canon of 20th-century British art. She died on 20 June 2006, aged 86.