Bratby is best known as a painter of his immediate surroundings. On graduating
from the Royal College of Art in 1954 he rose to instant fame with his
unadulterated view of domestic life. He was soon regarded as a leading light
within a group of artists known as the
Alongside peers such as Jack Smith, Edward Middleditch and Derrick Greaves, Bratby looked to the everyday as the source of subject matter for his paintings. In an effort to convey social realism he portrayed desperate faces, trapped in the banality of a working class domestic environment. These faces were often those of his immediate family and were portrayed in a variety of domestic settings.
Bratby’s use of bright, vibrant colours and expressionist impasto techniques distinguished his style from that of his peers. More in keeping with artists such as Francis Bacon and Frank Auerbach than those within the Kitchen Sink Movement it eventually led Bratby to dispense with his portrayal of working class domestic life altogether. He chose instead to paint a series of cityscapes, mostly of Venice, and intimate portraits of his second wife Patti.
One of the most prolific artists of his generation, by his death in 1992 Bratby had painted over 1500 portraits. Fittingly, Bratby’s auction record for an oil painting was for a painting of a kitchen sink.
Listen to students' responses to Bratby's paintings - see Audio links below.