||Sven Berlin has been described as "England's most important neglected artist". At the same time he is one of the most fondly remembered of the figures who made up the artistic community of St Ives, the Cornish resort that was and remains the home of Britain's most influential art colony. His contemporaries and friends were Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, the potter Bernard Leach and the poet W.S. Graham.
First a conscientious objector at the outbreak of World War 2, he later joined up and took part in the Normandy landings as an artillery forward-observer. The letters he wrote to a friend during his advance across northern France were later reformulated into his war book I am Lazarus, described by The Guardian as "the best book to come out of World War 2".
Invalided out of the army, he returned to Cornwall, wrote the first biography of the primitive artist Alfred Wallis, and resumed his career as painter, writer and sculptor. He won Second Prize for sculpture in the Festival of Britain of 1950. Barbara Hepworth took the First Prize.
He moved to the New Forest in a horse-drawn gypsy caravan in 1953 and painted an important series of paintings that documented the last days of the Forest Gypsies before they were driven out of their traditional camp-grounds to be rehoused in council estates. A celebrated film of his work at this time was made by the famous director John Boorman (Point Blank, Deliverance, Excalibur, etc). Ralph Vaughan Williams visited Berlin at his Emery Down home and collected songs from the gypsies.
During all these years, and in the years following when Sven and his wife Julia moved to Dorset, Berlin wrote poetry prodigiously. But although Berlin published nine books, his poetry was never collected or published in his lifetime.
However, in the 1960s his friend John Paddy Browne, with whom he corresponded for nearly 30 years, recorded Sven reading his own poems at his New Forest home. Those recordings, remastered by Paul Marsh of Forest Tracks, are now published for the first time in a sumptuous package that includes a 60-minute audio CD and an illustrated booklet with all the poem texts and extensive notes and bibliographic details.
This CD has been hailed as an important literary and historical production, making available the poetry of Sven Berlin for the very first time, read in a voice of remarkable clarity and beauty which, thanks to the wonders of digital re-recording, comes across with a lifelike vibrancy.