Brooks was born in 1911 in Manchester, the son of a spinner. He became a printer’s apprentice, who later studied at Manchester Art School, where one of his fellow pupils was L S Lowry. Brooks was a landscape painter, of the modernist school, who exhibited regularly in galleries in London and Manchester in the 1940s and 1950s.
He was married in the 1903s to Barbara Niven, for some 20 years the organiser of the PPPS Fighting Fund until she died in 1972. She was herself a painter and both were members of the Manchester Society of Modern Painters and the CPGB. They were also involved in the Manchester Theatre Union, launched by Joan Littlewood and Ewan McColl. Brooks designed backcloths for Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop in London. Both lived for a time with their friend, the poet, Hugh McDiarmid in the Outer Hebrides immediately before the war. After the war, they moved to London where Niven began work for the Daily Worker.
In 1949 Brooks was an official artist, recording the reconstruction of post-war Yugoslavia. He was commissioned to paint morals, including one for the Festival of Britain. He earned a living as a free-lance graphic designer. Although his linocuts were freely used by the Daily Worker as fund raising objects! He was a member of the exhibitions’ committee of the Artists International Association. He and Niven were close friends of John Berger. Brooks died in Halifax in 1993.
Source: Morning Star 12th December 2000
The image is from the Daily Worker of 23 April 1952 and shows Ern Brooks The Freeing of John Ball. Linotype reproductions of the engraving were on offer through the paper.