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Doreen Fletcher’s Early Paintings

June 4, 2024
by the gentle author

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In the week before the opening of Doreen Fletchers’s exhibition of new paintings, EAST, on Saturday 8th June at Townhouse, it is my pleasure to show a selection of her early paintings which originate from the Potteries where Doreen grew up. These pictures comprise a significant body of work painted by Doreen in her teens and early twenties.

Salvation Army Building, 1970 (Courtesy of Brampton Museum)

Brook St, 1975

“This was the very first urban oil painting I ever did. I was inspired by the fact that each time I returned to visit my parents, a little more of their environment had disappeared and I felt an urgent need to record what remained. I little realised at the time I had found both a subject and a content that would last a lifetime.”

Bungalow in Summertime, 1976

“When I painted this, I had already lived in London for two years with my boyfriend, an art student at Wimbledon. During the summers we decamped to our hometown of Newcastle-under-Lyme on his motorbike which I loved riding pillion. On summer evenings, we drove around the countryside, stopping for a drink at a country inn and savouring the contrast between our new, busy lifestyles in London and the peaceful country lanes we travelled.

One evening, I was taken aback to see a suburban bungalow in the middle of a field. It looked completely out of place and reminded me of the house where my great uncle lived in which the heavy oak furniture seemed out of scale in the small rooms. Due to this I had developed a prejudice against what I saw as ‘bungalow culture.’”

House in Whitfield Ave, 1977

“The house where I grew up was declared not fit for human habitation in 1974. My parents were happy to move into a council property they were offered across the road from this one. There was a huge garden with two greenhouses where my dad grew vegetables in regimented rows, with tomatoes and chrysanthemums. He was delighted, but my mother was lonely and missed the intimacy of the cramped streets with a shop on every corner near the town centre.”

The Albert, Liverpool Rd, 1977

Takeaway Chip Shop, 1979

“This is typical of chip shops dotted all over Newcastle and the Potteries where long queues would form at tea-time and again after the pubs had closed.”

Black & Yellow Door, 1980

“Notice the foot scraper that all terraced houses had in those days, for knocking off the clay from clogs and later Wellingtons. The bright colours of the paintwork were trendy in the early-mid seventies, as opposed to the dull browns, navy blues and maroons favoured in the fifties and sixties.”

Beats Grocers, 1980 (Courtesy Potteries Museum & Art Gallery)

Finesse Hair Salon, 1980

“Hairdressers such as this abounded in the sixties and many remain today. My mum went every Friday to have her hair ‘set’ and, twice a year, she subjected herself to the torture of strong-smelling perm lotion, with her hair screwed in rollers, then baked under a hairdryer for a couple of hours. As a result, she did not have much left of her once luxurious hair by the time she was fifty. I grew up fearful of these hairdressers and, to this day, I delay a haircut as long as possible.”

House with Pylon, 1980

Gardeners’ Hut, Westlands, 1980

11 Whitfield Avenue

Red House in Talke, 1980

“When I went on the bus with my mum to visit my gran at Talke  during the school holidays, we passed this house somewhere around Talke Pitts and, even amongst the red brick of the Midlands, it struck me as very red indeed. I must have been eight or nine but the memory of it remained and, when I went in search of it fifteen years later, I was delighted to find it was still standing.”

Sheldon’s Hair Salon, Knutton, 1982

“It is my mother who is looking in the window of Sheldon’s hairdressers and dress shop. She went once a week to have her hair ‘set.’ At that time, she was ten years younger than I am now but considered herself old at fifty-five and dressed accordingly. When I was a child, we used to take a walk each Sunday afternoon to places such as Knutton, a former mining village on the outskirts of Newcastle-under-Lyme. Even in such a small place, a shop like Sheldon’s could support its proprietors.”

Chatwins Bakers, 1982

“I painted this ten years after I left Newcastle and five years after I first envisaged it. 

Chatwins Bakery was a family business, alive and thriving today, having expanded from fresh bread baked daily by John Chatwin and sold by horse and cart to twenty shops throughout Staffordshire, Cheshire and North Wales.”

Wrights Grocers, 1982

“I painted this in the early eighties while I was living in Paddington but it recalls a corner shop in my hometown. In the background, a row of condemned houses awaits demolition and it is apparent the grocery store is not long for this world either. The goods it contains are typical of what was on offer in any small shop across the country.”

Church in Brampton, 1982

“Although I was sent to a strict Church of England Primary School, I have been a non-believer since the age of five and a committed atheist since I was twelve. In spite of this, the Methodist, puritanical blood runs deep in my veins and I have never been attracted to Baroque architecture preferring the severe Victorian architectural styles of Newcastle and Stoke.”

View from Clayton Fields, Newcastle-under-Lyme, 1985 (Courtesy of Brampton Museum)

“This was a commission from Newcastle Borough Council. I was asked to removed the green and white stripes on the side of one of the buildings in the distance because the Chief Executive considered them an eyesore.”

Tiffany Dance Hall, 1979

Tiffany’s at Night, 1988

“Tiffany’s in the early seventies was the centre of the universe. I went there on Saturday afternoons with my friend Janet and later we graduated to Wednesday evenings from 7pm-10pm. It was the only time in my life that I visited a Dance Hall, they have never interested me since”

Winter in the Park, 1989

“This is the sister painting to the ‘Gardeners’ Hut’ but done many years later.”

Northern Stores, 1998

“Even in the sixties, the Northern Stores was an anachronism. It was a hardware shop I enjoyed visiting with my dad on Saturday mornings when he would buy something for his allotment, perhaps chicken feed or paraffin or a bag of nails for mending a fence. My pleasure at being out with him was heightened by the awareness that our next stop would be the art materials shop or the bookshop where he always spent more on me than he did on his own needs.”

Paintings copyright © Doreen Fletcher

You may also like to take a look at

Doreen Fletcher’s East End

Doreen Fletcher in her own words

7 Responses leave one →
  1. Marcia Howard permalink
    June 4, 2024

    What a beautiful Post. I have always loved seeing Doreen’s work, after being introduced to her through you Gentle Author. I have a couple of books on her work which I never tire of looking through. Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful images of her work, and for the comments/insights attached to each of them too.

  2. Mark permalink
    June 4, 2024

    Superb and beautiful.
    Love em all but the Corona bin is my fave.
    What a lovely eye Doreen has.

  3. Winnie permalink
    June 4, 2024

    Completely brilliant.
    Love love love them.

  4. Christine permalink
    June 4, 2024

    Superb paintings. I love the simplicity of the paintings. I adore the shop the lady with a pretty dress is browsing. Also the red brick semi reminds me of childhood ! I wish I could get there for the exhibition x

  5. June 4, 2024

    I love this series. The bungalow portrait is endlessly captivating. Although I have seen it before, today it brought me to a full stop. It radiates with endless human stories and fragile personal histories. The artist’s presentation of the structure transforms it into a place of drama and (dare I say) secrets. In theory, the symmetry of the painting should provide solace and calm — and yet the dark shapes of the windows are full of intrigue and mystery. I imagine myself in a vehicle, stopped at the side of the road, staring up at this structure — barely noticing far-off sounds of traffic, buzzing insects, rustling branches overhead. I stare at the house and am surrounded by its secrets.

    Mark Twain described a house “with eyes to see us with”. He meant that in the kindest, dearest way — but the eyes of this house provide a totally different mood. Brava, Ms. Fletcher.

  6. John Campbell permalink
    June 4, 2024

    Love them all. Chatwin’s bakery is very Edward Hopper.

  7. Andy permalink
    June 5, 2024

    These are wonderful pictures. They remind me of an eventful part of my childhood and teenage years growing up the Midlands and Yorkshire. They fill me with a comforting warmth. Really looking forward to Doreen’s upcoming exhibition.

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