Works by outsider artist Bryan Pearce have been stolen from a quiet Cornwall village. The burglar took the works from a private home in the village of Zennor, absconding with four paintings, included two canvases by the artist. The owner of the paintings estimates that the two outsider works of art, ‘Portreath’ and ‘White Jug & Catkins’ both created in 1960, are worth approximately £50,000 each, based on recent sales of similar works by the artist.
The Burglars entered the property via a ground floor window, and the cottage next door was also broken into at approximately the same time, although nothing was taken from that location. “It appears they may have been been targeted for these paintings and the first house may have been targeted by mistake,” local police detective Neil Harvey told the BBC. The break-ins on both properties is thought to have occurred between 16 and 27 January.
The famed British outsider artist Bryan Pearce (1929–2007) had his first solo exhibition at the Newlyn Gallery near Penzance in 1959, and his first solo exhibition in London at the St Martin’s Gallery in 1962. Retrospectives of the artist’s work were held at various venues from 1966 to 2004, particularly at Penwith Gallery in 1966, the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford in 1975, the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro in 2000, and the Victoria Art Gallery in Bath in 2004. Examples of Pearce’s work are held in many public gallery collections.
Police made a statement to Western Morning News saying that due to the childlike nature of the artist’s work, the thieves may not realise the value of the works. But Harvey was doubtful: “Anyone who knows his painting knows he has a particular style.”
The artist suffered from phenylketonuria, which is a congenital disease affecting the brain, which limited his learning and communication abilities. pearce’s business affairs were dealt with by his family and trustees, enabling him to concentrate on his art. The artist’s mother Mary, an amateur painter, and enrolled him in the St Ives School of Art as a young man. Pearce’s brightly coloured, heavily outlined works depicting the local landscape soon attracted the attention of galleries and art historians. In 2011, a harbour landscape scene titled ‘St. Ives (All round)’ set the auction record for Pearce, fetching £55,250 at Christie’s.