Raised by a strict guardian in Surrey in the 1930s, Martin Bradley knew he wanted to be an artist from a very early age. His guardian, however, had other ideas. At the tender age of 14, the rebellious Bradley quit school and ran away from his strict home. The resourceful young artist got himself a job as a cabin boy (such things were still possible in 1945), where he painted portraits of the ship’s passengers and other crew members. He was happy to be out of his restrictive house, but leaving his studies still haunted him.
When he turned 18, Bradley returned to dry land to study art (with a focus on calligraphy) and literature. Once in London, he joined an informal group of writers and artists known as the Angry Young Men, with whom he spent the next few years. It was with the Angry Young Men that Bradley finally grew up. The artist characterizes his time with the creative group as one of the most influential of his life.
He spent the next three decades making art while moving from place to place. His travels took him to Brazil to research local culture, and to India and Nepal to study Buddhist art. Bradley finally settled in Belgium in 1989.
Bradley’s early struggles, his love of abstracts and symbols, and his lifelong study of other cultures have resulted in some very iconic work, both on canvas and in glass. When I first saw the piece above, its sense of whimsy and rebellion led me to assume it was made by a much younger man, which is perhaps a testimony to Bradley’s willingness to always return to his student self.
You can check out Bradley’s work on his Artnet page.