At the age of 96 and a half, Pearl Goodman is holding her debut art exhibition.
Pearl, widow of celebrated Chichester artist David Goodman, was prompted to paint while she convalesced from colon cancer.
“I always illustrated my books with little cartoon figures, but I never thought I could paint. But then my daughter Caroline gave me some paints. That was about two years ago, and I thought I couldn’t be bothered. I just thought ‘I can’t paint!’ But then six months ago, I started. I have done 20. They are a mixture of what I call pop art and painting in old age.
“20 paintings wouldn’t fill a big room, so they are putting them in the foyer.”
Pearl’s exhibition at Chichester’s Oxmarket Centre of Arts runs from April 11-23.
Over her long and busy life, Pearl has been a singer and performer, both in Sussex and in the 1940s as a founder member of the famous Theatre Workshop with Joan Littlewood, touring the country in a lorry doing avant-garde theatre and singing with Ewan MacColl. She left Theatre Workshop to become a mother of three girls and wife of the artist, businessman and Chichester conservationist David Goodman, who died four years ago.
At the age of 70 Pearl began to write, producing and illustrating two successful books, A String of Pearls and More Pearls, a witty and poignant account of growing up in Chichester, which was adapted for the stage in the Minerva.
When she was 15 Pearl won a scholarship to art school, but her parents couldn’t afford for her to go.
Now, more than 80 years later, she is finally holding her first exhibition, a collection of humorous and colourful acrylics in the naïve style. The proceeds will be donated to St Wilfrid’s Hospice – where she sang at its inauguration.
Key to the exhibition has been the experience of colon cancer.
“If you are convalescing, you think about what you have been through, and it isn’t very good for you. You don’t want to ruminate too much. You have got to get outside yourself.
“I think in the past, grandmothers used to knit or embroider. You have got to be busy!”
One of the images recalls Aunty Ethel’s wedding. Pearl was nine at the time.
“There is the church and the choir boys and the clergyman. And I have done the people in front of the church. It is pop art!
“And I have also painted flowers you have never seen! They are in my imagination. They got out of hand and I just went on using my imagination. They aren’t bad!
“And another painting, a friend of mine commissioned, but I am showing it anyway. It’s her and her husband in their garden with the cottage at the back.”
Pearl, who lives in Halnaker, insists “I’m no Rembrandt”: “But if anybody wanted to buy one, it would cheer up their kitchen or maybe to give to a grandchild.
“I have done a Victorian girl with her dog. It is a mixture really, as well as my strange flowers in pots.”
And the satisfaction is huge, Pearl is happy to say.
“It takes me out of myself into another world altogether, and when I have finished it, it is a marvellous feeling of satisfaction that I have done something especially if you have always been an active person in your life. The pleasure of doing creative things is marvellous. It just takes you somewhere else where you don’t have to worry about what you did this morning or what happened last year or ‘What’s that on the side of my face!’”
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