Bermuda Artists

Charles Lloyd Tucker

The Repair Shop

A Bermuda painting was the focus of a recent episode of BBC One’s popular TV series The Repair Shop, watched by over 3 million viewers in the UK. The painting, which depicted a Bermuda house painted in the 1950s, was brought to the attention of presenter Jay Blades and art conservator Lucia Scalisi by Patricia Dangor, daughter of Sir Edward Trenton ‘E.T.’ Richards, and his granddaughter Rokeya Wilson.

The TV programme focused on their family history – the house in question being the Warwick home that Sir Edward built for his wife Madree – and his ground-breaking role as Bermuda’s first Black premier. Not apparent was the fact that the work was painted by Charles Lloyd Tucker (Bermudian, 1913-1971), one of Bermuda’s most celebrated artmakers and the island’s first professionally trained Black artist.

Researchers from the BBC approached the Bermuda National Gallery about the potential restoration of the painting a year ago. BNG’s Chairman, Gary Phillips, OBE, JP – a long time collector of Lloyd Tucker’s work – put them in touch with the artist’s family, who granted the permission required to restore the painting.

We caught up with Gary Phillips, who was a student of Charles Lloyd Tucker, to discuss his memories of the Berkeley Institute’s first art teacher, the importance of collecting and how his favourite painting by the artist always keeps him grounded. We also spoke to Charles Lloyd Tucker’s daughter, Sarah Tucker Jackson, to find out what the restoration of the painting meant to her.

Bermuda National Gallery Chairman Gary Phillips, OBE, JP and Sarah Tucker Jackson, daughter of Charles Lloyd Tucker. Photograph by Dion Easton.

BNG: Could you please tell us about the painting and your role in the restoration process of the artwork for The Repair Shop?

GP: The BNG received a telephone call directly from The Repair Shop seeking direction on how to reach the family of artist Charles Lloyd Tucker as they required consent to revive a painting. I immediately got in touch with Mr. Tucker‘s daughter, Sarah Tucker Jackson, and we together completed the necessary documentation to allow the restoration to move forward. When shown the image of the work, we recognized it immediately as the homestead of Sir Edward Richards whose life and work earned him the high honour of National Hero.

BNG: Charles Lloyd Tucker painted the artwork featured on The Repair Shop in the 1950s, shortly after he returned from England where he had been studying at Byam Shaw School of Drawing and Painting in London. This was also around the time that he joined The Berkeley Institute as their first art teacher. You were later a student of his at the school. What are your memories of him and his influence on the school?

GP: Before Charles Lloyd Tucker, I don’t think I or anyone else in our class had ever seen or met anyone else who was truly larger than life. He was a walking canvas. He was as colourful and precise in his language as he was in his attire and required that you pause in awe as he passed through what we called ‘the hallowed halls’ of our alma mater. But oh what hands! We all marveled that such enormous hands could produce such delicate strokes.

Neighbourhood by Charles Lloyd Tucker. Watercolour.
Collection of Gary and Tricia Phillips.

BNG: You first purchased a work by Charles Lloyd Tucker in 1971, shortly after his death. Neighbourhood depicts Curving Avenue in Middletown, the neighbourhood in which you grew up – and the recent location for the BNG 5K Run for The Arts. Could you please tell us about the work and its significance?

GP: Indeed about three months after Mr. Tucker’s sudden passing, my wife and I plucked up enough courage to call his widow Theresa to ask if we could view the collection at their home. I had known Mr. Tucker outside of The Berkeley as he had conducted summer camp art classes at what was then Ports Island for the AME Church Sunday school children. I still have the rather crude cedar ladle I made under his tutelage. He was encouraging but most of all, he was overly kind. I was definitely not the best art student.  I decided from those early days that as I was not a creator, I could be an appreciator and a purchaser.

But getting back to visiting with Mrs. Tucker, when she saw how excited and moved I was upon recognizing my Neighbourhood, she agreed to sell it to me. My wife that same day selected a Barbados Market Scene.

BNG: You have now been collecting works by Lloyd Tucker for 5 decades. How has your collection grown over this time?

GP: Let’s just say that we have decided that our dining-room (which does not get too much natural light) would be a celebration to Charles Lloyd Tucker – I think we have about 15 there – which I was fortunate to have professionally hung. There are several others in the house, including under the bed.

BNG: Which is your most treasured piece and why?

GP: Neighbourhood is definitely my favourite, and most treasured, not just because it was my first acquisition but because it keeps me grounded, appreciative and immensely proud of my maternal West Indian roots – reminding me every day that “there was never a time that I did not know where I had come from, who I was and most importantly what was expected of me.”

Storm in a Teacup by Charles Lloyd Tucker, c.1959. Oil on canvas. Collection of Carolyn and Charles Webbe.

BNG: Charles Lloyd Tucker witnessed great social and political change in Bermuda during his lifetime, which is often reflected in his work. Storm in a Teacup, which was exhibited at BNG in 2019, was a response to the 1959 Theatre Boycott, which led to the dismantling of segregation in Bermuda. How can artworks such as this help us to tell our stories?

GP: Art always tells a story. Sometimes it takes research to uncover and reveal the story, but it is always there. The context of Storm in a Teacup is powerful in so many ways, but I always see within it, the friendship of Charles Lloyd Tucker and Robert Barritt, whose juxtaposed work (which we have in the BNG collection) witnesses the defiant rapprochement of two men of different races at a time when Bermuda was institutionally divided.

BNG: Sarah, what was your experience of your father’s painting re-surfacing and being restored?

STJ: First and foremost, let me say that my brother Hans and I are always pleased to be reminded that our father, Charles Lloyd Tucker’s impact on the Bermuda art scene has endured now more than five decades after his death.

I would say that this speaks not only to him as an artist, but as a personality that touched so many lives across a wide spectrum, not only here in Bermuda, but overseas.

Although I do not know the painting of Wilton, the home of Sir Edward Richards, I was delighted to learn of the existence of the painting and that the family cared enough about it to seek my permission to have it restored.

Judging from what we have learned from The Repair Shop, BBC One’s televised programme, the restorer has done a brilliant job, I have only one regret: that I would very much have loved to have seen the before and after images side by side.