East London Group

Phyllis Bray: 30/08/1911 to 12/12/1991.

Phyllis was born in Norwood: her father William de Bray was attaché to Maria Fyodorovna, mother of the murdered Russian Tsar Nicholas II. Early on, whilst still at school in Eastbourne, Phyllis showed artistic talent and this led to her attending The Slade School of Fine Art from 1927 to 1931 where she proved to be a star student under Henry Tonks.

She married John Cooper in the summer of 1931 having made her first contributions to East London Group exhibitions at their second show at Alex. Reid and Lefevre in December 1930 where she showed two pictures. In common with one or two of the other Slade trained members of the Group, Phyllis periodically taught at the evening classes. By 1933 she had joined her husband as a member of the London Group and in 1934 their daughter Philippa was born. Sadly the couple’s happiness was relatively short-lived as they separated and divorced barely two years later.

As a London Group member Phyllis met the German refugee, Hans Feibusch in 1933 and they went on to collaborate over nearly forty years on many mural projects the most notable of which were at Chichester Cathedral and Dudley Town Hall and numerous provincial a London churches such as St Crispin’s, Bermondsey and St Alban the Martyr, Holborn. Phyllis had an extensive career as a muralist in her own right a highlight of which was a commission to paint three murals at the New People’s Palace on the Mile End Road. She exhibited widely in mixed shows through the thirties and forties and was also in great demand for commercial work for companies such as John Lewis Partnership, London Transport and Shell. Working for many publishers she also produced book cover designs and illustrations. In later life Phyllis continued to paint but her indomitable spirit was sorely tested by the onset of Parkinson’s disease which eventually forced her to give up her work

Phyllis Bray, photo 1

Phyllis Bray most likely taken in the early to mid thirties

Phyllis Bray,photo 2

Phyllis Bray as a young lady, most likely taken in the late twenties

Phyllis Bray, Mural painting.1

Phyllis Bray working on one of the mural panels that she was commissioned to paint for tThe People's Palace on the Mile End Road