Art Detectives Uncover Mystery of Cooper Collection Painting

9th March 2022

A stunning piece of artwork, part of the Cooper Gallery’s outstanding collection, has been revealed as the work of an important Barnsley-born artist, Brenda Bury.

For many years the painting – referred to as ‘Colonel Rowland Addy’ – remained quite the mystery, but research has enabled the team at the Gallery to uncover details about the sitter and the artist.

The painting, although signed and dated, was still unidentifiable as the artist’s signature was unclear. An image of the signature was placed on Art UK and with the help of @artukdotorg’s Art Detectives, the artist of this portrait was eventually determined.

Brenda Bury is a British portrait painter who has spent most of her career working in both the United Kingdom and Canada. What is most exciting is that she was born in 1932 in Brierley, very close to Barnsley. She was a talented artist from a young age and won a number of local prizes for her work. Throughout her career she has painted portraits of royalty, dignitaries and politicians including HM Queen Elizabeth. She also painted Alderman McVie and his wife when he was Mayor of Barnsley in the 1950s and this portrait is also held by Barnsley Museums.

The subject of the painting has now been confirmed as Captain Roland Addy. Captain Addy Brierley Hall in 1916 and lived there until he retired to Scarborough in 1948.

It is possible that Addy was aware of this talented young artist in his village when he was living there. When the portrait was commissioned in 1961, it may have been Addy who thought to ask Brenda Bury, even though at that time he was based in Scarborough and Bury was splitting her time between Toronto and the United Kingdom. As well as being the archetypal industrialist, Addy also had a keen interest in art and collected paintings, including watercolours by J M W Turner. In 1978 his wife gifted his paintings to the Cooper Gallery in her will in memory of her husband who passed away in 1963.

An image of the portrait is on display at the Cooper Gallery alongside information about Captain Addy. This story, along with others about prominent female artists, will be shared as part of Barnsley Museums #InternationalWomensday celebrations.

Cllr Tim Cheetham, Cabinet Spokesperson for Place (Regeneration and Culture) said: “This is such an extraordinary discovery! Not only that the work has been identified by the Art Detectives but also that it was painted by such an important female artist from Barnsley.  It adds to the already magnificent collection at the Cooper Gallery which is a free to enter and perfect for a relaxing trip out.”

For more information about the Cooper Gallery visit

Art Detectives Uncover Mystery of Cooper Collection Painting