20 July 2001


Artists and craftsman who normally exhibit at agricultural

shows are having to find other venues this year such as the

farm Keith Huggett visited

THE Royal Show is usually a great showcase for the work of contemporary painter Beth Cooke and furniture maker Chris Barney. But when this years show was cancelled because of foot-and-mouth precautions, the pair decided to stage a combined exhibition of their work at Chriss home and workshop – Brook Farm at Birdingbury, Rugby, Warks.

Chris, who studied engineering at Cambridge and has built roads, bridges and canal boats, bought a smallholding with lots of barns and a flock of Mules and gradually started to make furniture for friends and relations. For the past 15 years he has worked full-time as a contemporary English hardwood furniture maker.

&#42 English timber

He has two to three years stock of English timber slowly seasoning his barns, including cherry, walnut, English oak, burr oak, sycamore, pear and velvet ash.

Chriss range spans 33 pieces, from boxes costing £60 to an English burr oak dining table priced at £2100. His prices are based on the time each piece takes to make and costed on the average industrial wage.

Landscape and plant painter Beth Cooke was born in East Dulwich in 1920. She graduated in horticulture at Studley Horticltural College hoping for a career in plant hunting, but the war diverted her into agricultural research at Rothamsted Experimental Station. There she met and married soil scientist George William Cooke, who eventually became deputy director of Rothamsted ES and later chief scientific officer at the Agricultural Research Council.

&#42 Manual illustrated

Beth illustrated a Pitman manual, Botany for Gardeners, and in 1950-51 began her studies with Gerhart Frankl and the use of colour. She was influenced by the artist Emil Nolde and German Expressionism, as can be seen in the paintings she does at her studio in Harpenden, Hertforshire.

She has 135 paintings on show at the exhibition, including landscapes, flowers, trees and woods – some real, some imaginary and some captured from her youth and ancestral home in Cumbria. Works in watercolours, pastels and oils cost from £300-£700.

Inquiries: Chris Barney 01926-632094. Beth Cooke 01582 712899.

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