It’s the cluttered front room of a Warrington council house: gas fire set in a tiled frame, glass-fronted cupboard housing precious trinkets; shoes slipped under a chair; stacked magazines and books. And in the middle, an easel, surrounded by tubes of paint and pots of brushes.
The room is where Eric Tucker, a virtually unknown artist until his death in 2018 but since compared to LS Lowry, painted people in the pub and on the street, chatting, reading, smoking, playing cards.
It was recreated in a Mayfair gallery, using furniture and personal items from the home that Tucker shared for decades with his mother. “That’s it, it’s the bedroom with a T,” said Karen Kenna, the artist’s younger sister.
A few streets away, another upscale Mayfair arcade has been transformed into a 1960s pub, complete with a dark wood paneled bar, a jar of pickled eggs and ashtrays full of cigarette butts. The scene is typical of the pubs frequented – and painted – by Tucker.
The galleries – Alon Zakaim Fine Art and Connaught Brown – are exhibiting 46 oil paintings and watercolors by Tucker this month. Three days before the exhibition opened to the public, more than 20 had already been sold.
Tucker, who was born in 1932, held a variety of jobs after leaving school at 14, including digging graves and unloading trucks at a construction site. “He would come back from his shift and paint at night and on weekends,” his nephew Joe Tucker said. “He had a compulsion to paint whenever he had time.”
It wasn’t until the end of Tucker’s life that his family realized how well he had painted and how good his work was. His brother Tony – Joe’s father – said last year: ‘I knew he was painting in the front room and there were paintings upstairs, but I had no idea how. amount of material that there really was.
“I looked upstairs at the bedrooms, which were filled with artwork around the walls and even on the beds. Later I realized there were paintings in the attic, under the stairs and even in the shed at the back of the house The whole thing was quite surprising.
Tucker was self-taught, visiting galleries and museums in Manchester and, occasionally, London. He paints what he sees around him, mainly street scenes and people in pubs. But he didn’t show his work, and the one time he sold a few paintings, he was so outraged by the order taken by the dealer that he swore never to do so again.
“I saw him once drawing in a pub, on scraps of paper under the table,” Joe said. “Even as a child of around eight, I could see that he chose the most interesting characters. He would do three or four quick sketches and then paint them later.
“I spent a lot of time with him when I was a kid. He would pick me up from school. His jacket was taped down, he cut his hair with kitchen shears. He was fun and funny.
After Tucker died in 2018 and his siblings discovered the extent of his work, the family decided to hold an exhibition at his home. “We turned the house into a gallery, and we thought maybe some of the neighbors would come.” About 2,000 people visited it in two days.
A retrospective at the Warrington Museum and Art Gallery followed, and in 2020 Connaught Brown and Alon Zakaim Fine Art displayed 14 of Tucker’s watercolors online. All sold in a few hours.
Tucker had “a style of his own, a way of telling a story that is unique and distinctive,” said Alon Zakaim. “You are transported to a time and place, you immediately know what you are looking at.”
Comparisons to Lowry were quickly made. “He was interested in Lowry as a northern painter who painted his surroundings. Lowry was definitely an influence,” Joe said. But Tucker also drew on Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.
It was hard to say what Tucker would have thought of the Mayfair exhibits and recreations of his home and local pub, Joe said. “It’s so removed from his world. I think he would feel gratified – I think he felt his work had value. But he would also say: why did you do it like that? He would have some complaints.
Eric Tucker At Home: From Warrington to the West End is at Alon Zakaim Fine Art and Connaught Brown until December 23.