Art from the Heart; INTERNATIONAL Artist Prue Bishop Was the First Woman to Graduate from Newcastle College of Art and Industrial Design. She Reveals Her Fascinating North East Heritage to KAREN WILSON.: A Life-Long Passion for Prue

The Journal (Newcastle, England), January 22, 2011 | Go to article overview
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Art from the Heart; INTERNATIONAL Artist Prue Bishop Was the First Woman to Graduate from Newcastle College of Art and Industrial Design. She Reveals Her Fascinating North East Heritage to KAREN WILSON.: A Life-Long Passion for Prue


Byline: KAREN WILSON

SHE'S exhibited around the world, curated for the United Nations, been hailed as "a painter of considerable international repute" in France and has even devised her own genre of art called 3D sculptural watercolour.

But artist Prue Bishop, whose work sells for thousands across Europe and America, will always have a special place in her heart for the North East where she grew up.

"I've always longed to do an exhibition in Newcastle more than anywhere else in the world," says Prue, 65, who now lives in Geneva with husband John, a former RAF officer who's now a business consultant and photographer.

"The North East has always been a very important part of my life. It still is."

Born Prudence Mary Taylor into a high achieving family on Jesmond's Clayton Road, it seemed she was destined for success.

Her mother Theresa Mary was one of the first women to graduate from Cambridge in modern languages, while her father, George Taylor, was a well-known accountant in Newcastle's Market Street.

"He did the audits for practically everybody who had shops and businesses in Newcastle and Northumberland including Bainbridges and Fenwick," says Prue, who has two children, Oliver, 35, who works for Shell and Rebecca, 37, a former international cyclist who now lives in Edinburgh.

A member of the TA, her father was called up with pals in the Tyne Electricals and served at Dunkirk. He was awarded a military OBE in 1941.

But like many war heroes, he never talked about his experiences.

At the end of the war he did relief work in Germany, so didn't meet his daughter till she was a year old.

Both grandfathers were equally prolific. Her mother's father, Dr Burdon-Cooper, went to Durham College at just 15 to read science and became an MD at 20. He went on to partly found the Bath Royal Eye Infirmary and pioneered the cataract operation.

Her father's father, also George Taylor, used to run a mineral water factory in Gateshead called John Rowells, which made the famous dandelion and burdock, lemonade, cherryade and ginger beer.

Born in Hexham, he was president of Northumberland County Cricket Club in Jesmond and "a very fine man with tremendous entrepreneurial skills", according to Prue. It was her grandfather George's love of painting that would inspire her own creative endeavours, especially as her father had returned from the war "a sad, remote man." "My mother always said he wasn't the man he was when she married him," says Prue. "But my grandfather encouraged me in everything I did. I had that design instinct from being a very tiny child. After the war we didn't have many toys so everything I wanted, I made. There was a woodwork factory in Gosforth that used to give me bags of offcuts." As a pupil at Central Newcastle High, then a state grammar school, life in Gosforth was good for Prue. Later she was sent away to boarding school in the South. "It was the worst time of my life because I had to say goodbye to my grandpa and I lost all my friends." she says. When Prue was 14, the family moved from Gosforth to Elsdon in Northumberland where they bought a Pele Tower and her mother became the church organist, a post she held for 30 years. "It was a very, very happy time," she says.

"The Journal always had a huge interest in the house and did several articles about it." Although Prue later inherited the property when her father died in 1991, they couldn't afford the upkeep on husband John's RAF salary. When Prue left school at 18, her mother tried to line up some work experience for her as a window dresser at Isaac Walton & Co outfitters in Grainger Street. However, the owner suggested she'd study at Newcastle College of Art and Industrial Design. Although now part of Northumbria University, in those days the building was on Clayton Road, opposite the house where Prue was born.

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Art from the Heart; INTERNATIONAL Artist Prue Bishop Was the First Woman to Graduate from Newcastle College of Art and Industrial Design. She Reveals Her Fascinating North East Heritage to KAREN WILSON.: A Life-Long Passion for Prue
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