BIRTWHISTLE, Iris Mary

1918 - 2006

IM Birtwhistle

Born at Pleasington Lodge, Houghton, Blackburn, Lancashire on 29 May 1918, second of the eight children of James Astley Birtwistle and his wife Mary Muriel née Marwood. In the 1930s, she studied at the Bauhaus-influenced Reimann Art School in London, but turned her attention to writing lyric poetry. On the outbreak of the Second World War, she enlisted as an officer in the Wrens. After the war Birtwistle turned her back on London and, although unmarried, adopted three sons and in 1950 they settled in Suffolk. She tried her hand at portrait photography but set up her first gallery, selling drawings for a fiver by the young David Hockney before anyone knew who he was, and scouring the art schools for new talent. In 1960 she opened her gallery at Walberswick, Suffolk, which was followed by that at Ipswich and, despite her eyesight failing from the age of 49 from hereditary glaucoma, which rendered her blind for the last 15 years of her life, in the late 1970's, at 'Deepdale Exhibitions', on the bleak north Norfolk coast. During which she championed the likes of Mary Potter, Mary Newcomb, Jeffrey Camp and Philip Sutton, 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.