1918 - 2006

IM Birtwhistle

Iris Mary Birtwistle was born at Pleasington Lodge, Houghton, Blackburn, Lancashire on 29 May 1918, second of the eight children of James Astley Birtwistle (19 February 1889-16 August 1975), a cotton spinner & manufacturer, and his wife Muriel Mary Marwood (15 November 1893-1988), second daughter of Frederick Thomas Marwood of Pleasington Lodge, who married at Pleasington Priory, Blackburn, Lancashire on 29 July 1915. Iris was sent to boarding school and, in the 1930s, studied at the Bauhaus-influenced Reimann Art School in London, but turned her attention to writing lyric poetry. In 1939, an out-of-work exhibition shop window display artist, designer & dresser, living with her parents at Hoghton Bank, Chorley, Lancashire when she enlisted in the Wrens, being promoted third officer on 4 February 1945. On demobilisation Birtwistle, known as Lilla or I.M., 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 5 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, trading out of an old battery hen hut, bought for 25, which she put in the middle of her garden. Despite her eyesight failing from hereditary glaucoma which rendered her blind for the last fifteen years of her life, in the late 1970s, she opened Deepdale Exhibitions at her then home, the former Plough Inn at Burnham Deepdale on the north Norfolk coast. She championed the likes of Mary Potter, Marion Newcombe, Jeffery Camp 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. Iris Mary Birtwistle died at Burnham Deepdale, Norfolk on 20 June 2006, aged 86.

Works by This Artist