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The Genius of Disability: Bryan Pearce - What Would I Do If I Didn't Paint?

For a series challenging stereotypical ideas about creativity and disability, Tom Shakespeare celebrates painter Bryan Pearce, born with the metabolic disorder phenylketonuria.

Tom Shakespeare challenges stereotypical ideas about creativity and disability, by celebrating five disabled artists, discussing how their impairments fuelled their genius and demonstrating the variety and achievement of disabled lives.

Bryan Pearce, a painter from St Ives in Cornwall, was one of the very few people with learning disability who has achieved fame in their own right. He was born with the metabolic disorder Phenylketonuria. Today, all children are tested at birth for PKU, and if they have the genetic mutation, are placed on a special diet, and so grow up unaffected. In 1929, the condition was unknown, and as a result, Bryan Pearce experienced intellectual impairment and other health problems.

As a teenager, Bryan was encouraged by his mother and other artists to paint. His obvious talent meant that he attended the St Ives School of Painting during his twenties. Although he painted slowly, producing perhaps one picture a month, he had a long and very successful career, exhibiting throughout the UK. Bryan Pearce was limited in his ability to learn and communicate verbally. But alongside his deficits was a huge talent to see and communicate through art. As he said to his mother: "What would I do if I didn't paint? What would I do?"

Producer: Martin Williams.

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15 minutes


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