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Yet More Doreen Fletcher Paintings

December 10, 2018
by the gentle author

Today, we publish yet more of Doreen Fletcher’s paintings with her commentaries, revealing the stories behind the pictures.

One day in August, we gathered more than eighty of Doreen Fletcher’s paintings together to photograph them for her book. We photographed those in Doreen’s possession and Doreen’s husband Steve drove round London to borrow those in private collections.

The wonder of seeing all these paintings assembled was to discover the breadth of Doreen’s achievement for the first time and recognise that they added up to a complete vision. All these pictures will be brought back together for Doreen’s retrospective in January and you will be able to see them with your own eyes.

Doreen Fletcher & I will be in conversation, showing slides of her paintings, at the Wanstead Tap on Tuesday 18th December. Click here for tickets

Also, please make an entry in your 2019 diary to join us at the Private View of Doreen Fletcher’s RETROSPECTIVE at Nunnery Gallery, Bow Arts, on 24th January from 6pm. The exhibition runs until March 24th 2019.

Whit Sunday, Commercial Rd, 1989

“This is a painting that I thought I had lost forever. I had only a few blurred images of it and felt a pang of regret from time to time that I had not kept better records. I could not even remember when and where it was sold or what size it was. All I had was a date 1989 and a title ‘Whit Sunday, Commercial Road’.

Then, out of the blue, I was contacted by a man in Bristol who was in possession of a painting dated 1989 but unsigned. He inherited it from his parents who had bought it in the late eighties and he often wondered who painted it. Remarkably, he traced me by examining similar images on the internet.

Francis Walters, the famous East End funeral director with the horse-drawn carriages, has long since departed to Leytonstone where it now forms part of the Co-op. In 1989, East End Videos, was a state of the art enterprise renting out video cassettes of films that had been released a year or two earlier.

In retrospect, this painting appears an optimistic view of what was in reality, a dusty, dirty and polluted road in the days before the underpass linking the Highway to the docklands was built.”

Stepney Snooker Club by Day, 1986

Stepney Snooker Club by Night, 1986

“I was first drawn to the Stepney Snooker Club in 1985, when I noticed a mosaic floor at the entrance with the mysterious name ‘Ben Hur.’ This intrigued me since observed a certain contrast between the old mosaic and the newly plastered facade. Yet I never actually saw anyone go in or out of the snooker club when I passed it eack week on my way to an evening’s life-modelling at Smithy Street Adult Education Institute.

I discovered the snooker club was been the former location of the Palacedium Cinema, which was taken over in 1917 by a man named Ben Hur, a projectionist. This cinema is not to be confused with the Palaseum Cinema nearby. In 1962, the Ben Hur became a bingo hall and in 1985 the ‘Stepney Snooker & Social Club.’

I do not know what draws a painter to react to certain moments, a scene or event. In my mind, I can still recall one chilly night on my way home when I spotted a lone figure on the doorstep of the Club, smoking a cigarette, and I sensed an opportunity. I set my mind on creating two paintings that would contrast the ambience of the place during the day and at night.

The daytime painting is now in the collection of Tower Hamlets Local History Archive. Unfortunately, I do not know where the nighttime painting is but would love to find out. It is unlikely to be dated or signed since I thought it arrogant to sign paintings in those days.”


The Palaseum Cinema, 1985

“The Palaseum Cinema attracted my attention at first because of its façade, which in common with the Moorish appearance of the Star of the East was so much at variance with the others that lined Commercial Rd from Limehouse to Aldgate. In the main, the architecture is solid, Victorian and worthy, lacking in extraneous detail: Limehouse Library and Poplar Town Hall being typical.

The Palaseum and the Star of the East were places of entertainment and pleasure, and when the Palaseum was completed in 1912, it had a more distinctly exotic look. There was once a small dome on either side of the facade, as well as the large central globe you can see in the painting.

It originally opened its doors as Fienman’s Yiddish Theatre, but started screening films almost immediately. The buiding was renamed the Palaseum Cinema in 1913 and reincarnated as a Bollywood Picture House in 1965.

When I knew it, the Palaseum looked drab and forlorn with a shabby appearance during daylight hours. Yet it continued to attract my attention even though I did not see any people at all, entering or leaving. In retrospect, I should have gone inside, observed the decor and watched a film.”

Limehouse Library, 1988

“Limehouse Library was opened in 1901, endowed by John Passmore Edwards, the philanthropist. I painted it in 1988, the year after the completion of a mural of Limehouse Reach at the library and when Harold Wilson unveiled the statue of Clement Attlee outside. Yet despite the interest, the place already had an atmosphere  of a bygone age. Today it stands boarded up, awaiting rebirth.”





6 Responses leave one →
  1. December 10, 2018

    Lovely stuff.

  2. December 10, 2018

    Wonderful paintings holding many memories for me, too. Valerie

  3. Helen Breen permalink
    December 10, 2018

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, thank you for sharing more of Doreen Fletcher’s works and her illuminating commentary on them. I particularly admire how she worked those metal fences into the scenes such as those in Stepney Snookers Club.

  4. Marcia Howard permalink
    December 10, 2018

    I love every single one of Doreen’s amazing paintings. Love the story of the one bought by someone’s parents too, and who tracked Doreen down, allowing her to obtain a better image for her records. A very talented lady. Would love a copy of the book, but just overflowing with books at home for which I don’t have any remaining shelf space.
    VERY TEMPTED still to buy it, but before I do, can you give me the dimensions of it please.

  5. Helen Adams permalink
    December 11, 2018

    I have so enjoyed all these wonderful paintings and the entertaining descriptions. Thank you GA for sharing with us.

  6. Hammer permalink
    December 23, 2018

    Perhaps Doreen, you were drawn to the Snooker Club by the aura of it’s past.

    Perhaps by the thousands of East End youngsters who knew this place as the Ben Hur and went along for Saturday morning pictures every week.

    It was a place that lies forever in the hearts of those kids – many now no longer with us. It was our flea pit – with it’s quaint iron railings inside and old lumpy seats all on the one level. It was a magic place full of screaming kids running up and down the aisles up to all sorts of mischiefs. The heroes were cheered, the villians booed, and the Three Stooges laughed at. The main feature was always greated with louder cheers and stamping of the feet to coincide with the dimming of the house lights. Great stuff.

    One Saturday morning in 1962 the manager stood up at the front and told us all that they were going to make it into a Bingo Hall. He was booed off the stage and had all sorts flung at him. He tried to redeem himself by saying it would only be for a little while.

    Despite knowing he was lying, I still found myself waiting for the return of Saturday morning pictures to be announced each and every time I went past it as the years rolled on.

    It’s not coming back is it?

    Thanks for capturing it Doreen.

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