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Jean Cooke RA (1927-2008)
Cinema Paradiso, c. 1980s

Oil on board

Portraits: What you lookin' at?

Jean Cooke

Cooke’s paintings are renowned for displaying sensitivity and her innate ability to imbue her figures with a sense of familiarity. This confident painting depicts a male and female figure. Being painted together gives the impression of some relationship or dialogue between the two. However, there is something awkward about the composition. She sits looking away from us, not really acknowledging us or her male counterpart. It is as though she is captured in thought or whilst focused on something out of the picture frame. The male character, on the other hand, seemingly looks towards her – as if watching her watch something. The background of stipes of colour delineates the two figures. The yellow and green creating a boundary between the two figures, each of which are confined to the area as delineated by the chairs on which they sit. 

The female character is thought to be Cooke and John Bratby’s daughter, Wendy, but it is unclear who the male figure is. The painterly detail afforded equally to both the figures is suggestive of a gender equality lacking in Cooke and Bratby’s volatile and abusive relationship.

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