Peter Godfrey Coker was born in 1926, the son of a businessman. He was brought up in Leytonstone where he acquired a love for music from his mother and engraving from his maternal grandmother. His artistic career began at St Martin’s School of Art where he studied between 1941 and 1943, before being interrupted by three years’ in the Royal Air Force during World War II. After the war he returned to St Martin’s and studied there between 1947 and 1949. In 1949-50 he went to Italy and France where he absorbed the work of Gustave Courbet whose influence in subject matter and technique is evident in much of his work. On his return he went on to the Royal College of Art where he studied between 1950 and 1954, during which time he successfully received both a Royal and British Institution Scholarship (1951/1953). There he became acquainted with fellow artists such as Derek Greaves, John Bratby, Edward Middleditch and Jack Smith. Their artistic inclinations to paint scenes of domestic life united them as the Kitchen Sink School. He then returned to teach painting at St Martin’s (1954-73), moving to the City and Guilds of London Art (1973-85). Coker had many one-man exhibitions in London during the seventies including at the Thackery Gallery, the Mayor Gallery and Morley Gallery. Notably in 1979 he exhibited in the Royal Academy of Arts in an exhibition entitled Painting and Drawings of the Butcher’s Shop. In 1984 Coker exhibited at Gallery 10 in London. Following a series of paintings of animal carcasses, which he began in 1955 he became well known for having been inspired by butcher’s shops near his home in Leytonstone in London. He exhibited at the Zwemmer Gallery in London in 1956 (the first of four shows to be held there) and at the Royal Academy in 1979. He published a book entitled Etching Techniques in 1976.
As with other artists in the VBLT collection, the Essex countryside has both been inspiration and subject matter for many of his works. Here the artist has been drawn to the history of the small Essex village of Mistley, near Manningtree, where he moved in the 1960’s, opting to focus not on the landscape but on its architecture. During that period he became close to John Nash who was much older than him. The same year, in 1972, he had a retrospective exhibition at the Minories Art Gallery in Colchester.
- G. MEIßNER, Saur Allgemeines Kunstler-Lexion: Band 20, K.G. Saur Verlag GumbH & Co, Munich Germany, 1998.
- BENEZIT Dictionary of Artists: Volume 3, Editions Grund, Paris France, 2006.
- WOOTTON, David and John RUSSELL TAYLOR with the contribution of Richard Humpreys, Peter Coker RA: Fully illustrated biography, catalogue raisonné of major oils, watercolours and etchings, and list of sketchbooks, 2002.
- COKER, Peter, Etching Techniques, 1976.