A Titan among painters

In the week that he opens another new exhibition in the Lakes, Britain’s leading mountain painter Julian Cooper has been presented with a top award.

He received the accolade of Visual Artist of the Year at a ceremony at Rheged organised by the Cumbria Life Culture Awards, sponsored by the Arts Council and the University of Cumbria. The judges described Julian Cooper as “as a Titan among painters”.

Julian Cooper is the son of William Heaton Cooper, grandson of Alfred Heaton Cooper, both eminent of Lake District artists. His mother was the sculptor Ophelia Gordon Bell. His latest venture is the exhibition Unpicturesque which is opening at the Heaton Cooper Studio archive gallery and includes two of his own monumental works.

His paintings today reflect an un-traditional view of his Lake District landscape but his work is known and respected throughout the world. Where his forebears produced traditional views of the hills and lakes, Julian’s paintings involve close encounters, sometimes with barren, inhospitable places. He has visited some of the most hostile, awe-inspiring terrain on the planet: the Andes, Himalayas, Alps, Tibet, Carrara and Tasmania and made paintings that do justice to nature at its wildest.

But his native Lake District is the bedrock of his practice, his true territory. His work shows a strong desire to reach beyond appearance and uncover the underlying structure and essence of the place. Melvyn Bragg has said of Julian: “He has taken the skin, the pelt, off the landscape. He has uncovered the nerve, the bones, the innards. He has gone further than anyone has gone before, with consistency, determination and flair. He has given us work of quiet magnificence and infinite subtle variety. His talent is prodigious.”

No introspective artist concentrating only on his own work, Julian encourages young aspiring artists, curating exhibitions of their work, including Stefan Orlowski, Tessa Lyons, and Henry Iddon’s photographic exhibition, Hill People. Shows like these are staged each year as curtain-raiser to the Kendal Mountain Festival. This week sees the opening of his latest curated exhibition Unpicturesque, bringing artists together in a critical stand against the “picturesque” view of the Lakes.

“How we see profoundly affects the way we think, and seeing this and other landscapes as beyond ‘scenery’ and more as a dynamic layering of natural and human systems, all connecting to each other, may help in adjusting our attitudes to the benefit of all who live and visit here, whether they be human or non-human,” he says.

Torver Quarry by Julian Cooper

Julian Cooper’s two works on show will include his earlier paintings of abandoned slate quarries, a subject which was part of his exploration of mountains and rock-faces. In Torver Quarry the wall of sun-dappled rock leads down to the dark entrance of a cave, with band of coloured iron oxide running across the bedding layer, suggesting fracture and instability. The painting Overhangs, Hodge Close Quarry tries to convey the subtle abstract conjunctions of form and colour of rough and smooth slate typical of old Lakeland quarry walls.

Other artists represented are Martin Greenland, Alan Stones, Rebecca Scott and Alan Thompson. There are also photographs by John and Rosamond Macfarlane, whose son is Robert Macfarlane, the internationally bestselling, prize-winning author of Landmarks, The Lost Words and The Old Ways and whose latest work, Underland, has just been published.

The family favourite

Mathilde walks

A series of walks that give you the chance to stop for coffee, cake, lunch or brunch at Mathilde’s at the Heaton Cooper Studio, the Lake District’s centre for mountain art. All the walks are free to everyone, connecting visitors with the natural surroundings of our unique landscape in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Grasmere boathouse and Loughrigg by William Heaton Cooper

It’s a family favourite, it’s OUR family favourite, and William Heaton Cooper loved Loughrigg. In The Hills of Lakeland he wrote:

“It is typical of the low hills that children adopt as their favourite playground. On it are innumerable hills and valleys and shallow tarns which appear and disappear and freeze earlier than the big sheets of water….For many years my father had a small hut just below the summit where we would go and camp for days on end, living like savages, cooking on a trench oven, swimming in the tarns and falling off rocks – the very best holiday education for youngsters. We would sleep out on the dry turf in the heat of summer and wake up with dew on our faces.”

It’s still a wonderful playground for all ages. But the guidebook writer Wainwright, even back in 1958, warned about tackling this route on a Sunday. So it’s clear that our latest walk, the ascent of Loughrigg, has always been popular.

Celebrating on the summit

It’s a gem of a mountain though, even if it’s a very small mountain, and Loughrigg is big enough in other respects to cope with all the visitors. You must not miss this one, even if it has to be on a Sunday.

Loughrigg is a sprawling fell, two-mile long bulk filling all the ground that lies between Ambleside, Skelwith, Rydal and Grasmere, between the valleys of the Brathay and the Rothay. So even though it’s height is a modest 1101ft, you can spend a whole day wandering over Loughrigg’s rocky outcrops, meandering paths and little tarns (which range from tiny tadpole-hangouts, to the heavenly Lily Tarn and the grander eponymous Loughrigg Tarn).

You can also see five lakes from it’s summit, though the nearest, Rydal Water, isn’t one of them. What are they? You’ll have to do this climb to find out.

We’re taking you from Grasmere where you might already have had brunch or a scone in Mathildes. You will have earned second helpings by the time you get back from this walk; late lunch or afternoon tea, perhaps.

Take the road out of the village that heads past the head of the lake and up towards Red Bank, and cut off onto the footpath at the first opening on your left. This will take you above the lake shore and then through the delightfully-named Deerbolts Wood.

Bluebells on the lower slopes of Loughrigg above Grasmere’s beach

You’ll emerge from the wood through a wooden gate, and if you bear left, you’ll go immediately through a metal kissing gate. A few paces further takes you on a big stone slab across a tiny beck, and then your climb begins, unmissably, on your right.

It begins with newly built stone steps, which continue intermittently for part of the way on this steep and rocky ascent. They are the work of the Fix the Fells team which is tackling erosion on paths all over the Lake District.

The climb begins

Wainwright said that this walk was “a succession of delights, the scenery and views being unsurpassed” and we couldn’t put it any better. Behind, when you stop for a breather, is the perfect picture of Grasmere, its island and its village. As you climb higher, you can see that Helm Crag, looking so solitary and prominent from the valley, is in fact just the end of a long ridge.

The summit is unmistakable, and not just because there’s usually somebody already there. The highest point is marked by an Ordnance Survey triangulation column, or trig point, and from here you will realise just how significant is Loughrigg in spite of its modest height. To the east you can see the entire route of the Fairfield Horseshoe, and then Froswick and Harter Fell and Yoke. To the west, the serrated ridge of the Crinkle Crags lead to Bowfell and then the Langdale Pikes. Further south west are the Coniston fells. And those five lakes, of course.

There are many ways back down and all of the paths are easy to follow, but for Grasmere AND variety, head north east on the path that will take you down to Rydal Cave, and back along the terrace to Deerbolts wood, and your final descent to that well earned refreshment here at Mathildes.

Distance: 5 miles, or 6 if you return via Rydal Cave and the Terrace.

Challenging the notion of picturesque

An exhibition which challenges some traditional notions of landscape art will open here in Grasmere next week.

Unpicturesque at our Heaton Cooper Archive gallery features the work of seven eminent painters and photographers – Martin Greenland, Alan Stones, Rebecca Scott, Alan Thompson, Julian Cooper and John and Rosamund Macfarlane – who all live and work in Cumbria and the Lake District. It aims to extend and complement the inherited notion of the picturesque in both art and landscape.

Torver Quarry, Julian Cooper

The exhibition is being curated by Julian Cooper who is bringing artists together in a critical stand against the “picturesque” view of the Lakes, in the gallery founded by his artist-grandfather.

The term originated in Italy in the 16th century and referred to non-classical subjects in painting, with the French painter Claude Lorraine in particular embodying the picturesque ideal in landscape painting. The Lake District assumed its own identity as a distinct region after becoming a vehicle for ideas of the picturesque imported into English cultural debate by William Gilpin in the 18th century. For tourists the landscape was to be enjoyed as a series of leisurely ‘views’ from particular standpoints, preferably seen through a Claude glass.

“This way of viewing the Lake District survives largely intact through contemporary paintings, film, photographs, and publicity material promoting the tourist industry,” says Julian Cooper, the Cumbria Life visual artist of the year,  whose father William Heaton Cooper, and grandfather Alfred Heaton Cooper, both painted more traditional scenes of the Lakes.

“How we see profoundly affects the way we think, and seeing this and other landscapes as beyond ‘scenery’ and more as a dynamic layering of natural and human systems, all connecting to each other, may help in adjusting our attitudes to the benefit of all who live and visit here, whether they be human or non-human.”

Julian Cooper’s two works on show will include his earlier paintings of abandoned slate quarries, a subject which was part of his exploration of mountains and rock-faces. They were a rich source of possibilities in both form and colour, as well as an exploration of the interaction of natural and man-made worlds. In Torver Quarry the wall of sun-dappled rock leads down to the dark entrance of a cave, with band of coloured iron oxide running across the bedding layer, suggesting fracture and instability. The painting Overhangs, Hodge Close Quarry tries to convey the subtle abstract conjunctions of form and colour of rough and smooth slate typical of old Lakeland quarry walls.

There are three paintings of Setmurthy Forest near Cockermouth by Martin Greenland which are all done from memory.

They show the feeling and experience of walking slowly and quietly along the edge of the forest in fading light at dusk. In Setmurthy Forest Memory – Deeper, More Silent, Very Late, the little path runs alongside the forest on the left, with open fields on the right, leading to the Elva Plain – the site of an ancient stone circle. Beyond the Trees depicts the shock of suddenly seeing a light through the trees and not understanding that its source is a half-hidden farmhouse beyond.

The work by Alan Stones is a fine charcoal drawing, Field, which conjures up a corner of an ordinary field with a row of ancient thorn trees and celebrates the modern type of barn that’s typical everywhere, including the Lakes, but which remains ‘unseen’ in comparison with its picturesque old stone-built equivalent.

Two paintings by Rebecca Scott have a conceptual boldness and painterliness that makes them both successful and disturbing. There’s a rhyming consistency between the shapes and patterns of both meat and the landscape from which it originates. Her paintings Crescent Moon and Red in Tooth and Claw were both referenced from picture-postcards and supermarket catalogues, adding another layer of irony by seeing both the meat and the landscape as consumable products.

Alan Thompson’s extraordinary painting Lakeland Gathering becomes more believable the further in one goes. On the far edge of the invented Lakeland landscape the clothed figures are witnessing a party gathering of some sort, but as one gets nearer the front, it becomes an artificial world of posed nudes arranged in a tight composition.

Nicky Below Great Gable convinces because one doesn’t really believe Nicky is lying on that rock ledge, bracing herself from falling downwards – however, the painting wants us to believe it, and we do. She is somehow held back by the looming bulk of Great Gable behind, which acts not so much as a background but as another character in the painting.

In Alan and Kathryn on a Rock two figures are engaging in a sort of static dance, held in place by the interaction of shapes between each other’s limbs and the shapes in the landscape, each affecting the other.

John Macfarlane’s recent photographs reveal a hidden world just beneath the surface of typical Lakeland becks and streams. Rock changes its nature when it continues downwards under the water – from pitted and gnarled in the air, it becomes smooth and sinuous underwater, worn down by and echoing the shapes of constant water currents. Light becomes magical as if seen through an extra lens, the under-surface of the water becomes a roof, creating a claustrophobic landscape in the most shallow of streams. These photographs take us both physically and imaginatively right into the landscape.

John Macfarlane in Black Moss Pot

Rosamund and John Macfarlane’s series of photographs taken in the air from a Gyrocopter give an exhilarating release from the ground and an overview of how the various different parts of this landscape fit together – both man-made and natural. They show parallel paths of road, river and wall running up Honister Pass, a quarry road snaking its way up even higher, the delicate edging of Holme Wood as it meets Loweswater, and a sweeping view from within the heart of the Lake District, looking outwards over West Cumbria and over the Solway Firth and on to Scotland.

Their son is Robert Macfarlane, the internationally bestselling, prize-winning author of Landmarks, The Lost Words and The Old Ways and whose latest work, Underland, has just been published.

The exhibition, which is free, will run from the 13th of May until 30th September. www.heatoncooper.co.uk

Home a loan as painting returns to Grasmere

An extra work of art has been added to an historic exhibition in Grasmere.

A painting by William Heaton Cooper of The Langdale Pikes seen from Lingmoor is back on home territory as part of a display the Heaton Cooper archive gallery.

It’s been added to the exhibition of mountaineering history which includes a bronze plaque listing all 20 names of the members of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club who served – and died – in the First World War.

The painting is owned by the FRCC and is on loan to the gallery, from its usual home at the club’s climbing hut in Wasdale.

William Heaton Cooper, like his father Alfred before him, and his son Julian Cooper, was a notable painter of Lakeland landscapes. He also provided the illustrations for many of the early guidebooks published by the FRCC.

William Heaton Cooper sketching among the crags

The memorial plaque was, for many years, set into the summit cairn on Great Gable, the seventh highest mountain in the Lakes.

The exhibition is to mark the centenary of a campaign to buy Great Gable for the nation as a memorial to the 20 climbers who died in the conflict. FRCC member Herbert Cain said publicly: “Let’s buy a fell.’’

The FRCC subsequently raised the funds to buy 3,000 acres of fell land and gave it to the National Trust. The memorial plaque was unveiled on Whit Sunday, 1924, and remained on the summit until July 2013 when members of the Royal Engineers brought it down for re-casting, and put a new one in its place.

The plaque commemorates the 20 FRCC members who went to war and who were all killed in action. They included Seigfried Herford who’s known for one of the most outstanding achievements in British rock climbing, the first ascent of Central Buttress on Scafell.

William Heaton Cooper’s exquisite drawings of the Lakeland crags were used in the FRCC guides for 50 years from the 1930s onwards. The books were definitive guides for the climbing community, showing new routes as they were developed, drawn on site and working closely with the climbers at the crag face.

The exhibition, which is free, is open daily here at the gallery in Grasmere and runs until May.

The plaque

 

A springtime saunter

Mathilde walks

A series of walks that give you the chance to stop for coffee, cake, lunch or brunch at Mathilde’s at the Heaton Cooper Studio, the Lake District’s centre for mountain art. All the walks are free to everyone, connecting visitors with the natural surroundings of our unique landscape in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Spring is almost here. The days are longer, the birds are singing, and it’s time to go and see the flowers that inspired the world’s most famous poem, daffodils.

We have a walk that starts and ends here at Mathilde’s. It’s only about four miles, one way; we’ll suggest some return options later. But first, those daffs.

The ones that Wordsworth wrote about were not in our valley here but over the hill, beside Ullswater. William had been staying with his sister Dorothy at Pooley Bridge and on their walk back home (yes, they’d come over via Grisedale hause) they saw wild daffodils beside the lake beyond Gowbarrow Park.

 

These are the daffodils painted here by Alfred Heaton Cooper. Dorothy wrote in her journal: “I never saw daffodils so beautiful; they grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness, and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew them over the lake.”

And the rest, as we know, is literary history. But the daffodils on this walk were perhaps even more special to William Wordsworth. They’re the ones he planted in memory of his beloved daughter Dora, who died at the age of 43 from tuberculosis. William was distraught; he’d already lost two of his children to illness.

Now Dora’s field is owned by the National Trust who make sure that daffodils continue to grow there. The field lies just below the house, Rydal Mount, where Wordsworth lived for most of his life.

So we will walk there on a little pilgrimage, on a path that’s steeped in history itself. From Mathilde’s, take the road past the church and school to the end of the village, cross the main road, and take the minor road that runs behind Dove Cottage, where Wordsworth also lived for nine years. This road climbs steadily upwards; at the signpost take the right hand path, that leads you past the tiny White Moss tarn.

This path is known as the coffin route. In the days before there was a church at Rydal, the dead were carried along here to be buried in the graveyard at St Oswald’s Church in Grasmere. It used to be thought that the coffins themselves were carried, but recent research suggests that the corpses were usually put in a ‘winding sheet’ or shroud to be carried. They were then put in a coffin at the lychgate just before burial. Look at the shape of the “resting stones” along the way and use your imagination!

The path emerges just above Rydal Mount, and to reach Dora’s Field you will walk down the lane and cut through the churchyard on your right.

The daffodils here epitomise all that’s best about the Lake District in spring, and if you have time you should call in at Rydal Mount and have a look around the house, and the gardens that Wordsworth started landscaping. Yes, there are more daffodils, of course.

There are return options: retrace your steps through the woods along the coffin route, or head down to the main road, cross over opposite the Badger Bar, and cross the bridge to take the longer path back via Deerbolt Wood and Grasmere shore. Or you can catch the bus back to Grasmere.

Whatever your choice, we will have the kettle on specially for you! Late lunch, afternoon tea, coffee and cake, are all on the menu for you back at Mathilde’s. And there will be some daffodils on the walls in our gallery, too.

 

 

Mountain history is on display

A remarkable piece of Lake District history is on display here at the Heaton Cooper archive gallery in Grasmere.

A bronze plaque listing all 20 names of the members of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club who served in the First World War is the centrepiece of an exhibition. For many years it was set into the summit cairn on Great Gable, the seventh highest mountain in the Lakes.

It’s accompanied by the Fell & Rock journals from 1914-1919, photographs of the dedication ceremony on Gable in 1924, a poem “We Bought Them a Mountain”, by Max Biden, photographs and crag drawings of Gable, and Fell & Rock guidebooks illustrated by William Heaton Cooper.

The exhibition is to mark the centenary of a campaign to buy Great Gable for the nation as a memorial to the 20 climbers who died in the conflict. FRCC member Herbert Cain said publicly: “Let’s buy a fell.’’

The FRCC subsequently raised the funds to buy 3,000 acres of fell land and gave it to the National Trust. The memorial plaque was unveiled on Whit Sunday, 1924, and remained on the summit until July 2013 when members of the Royal Engineers brought it down for re-casting, and put a new one in its place.

The original has done a tour of Cumbria museums including the Eden in Penrith and the Armitt in Ambleside.

The plaque commemorates the 20 FRCC members who went to war and who were all killed in action. They included Seigfried Herford who’s known for one of the most outstanding achievements in British rock climbing, the first ascent of Central Buttress on Scafell.

William Heaton Cooper’s exquisite drawings of the Lakeland crags were used in the FRCC guides for 50 years from the 1930s onwards. The books were definitive guides for the climbing community, showing new routes as they were developed, drawn on site and working closely with the climbers at the crag face.

Julian Cooper, William’s son, and Britain’s foremost mountain painter, said: “It was a amazingly bold and generous act by the Fell & Rock Club to donate so much of the high fells to the National Trust, and such a fitting memorial to those who lost their lives”

The plaque will be on display at the gallery until May.

Mountaineering history in Grasmere

Historic moment: Mrs Sue Morton, the grand-daughter of mountaineer E.O. Shebbeare, who has loaned the photos for the Mountain of Destiny exhibition at Grasmere’s Heaton Cooper Studio, with Dr Jonathan Westaway, research fellow at the University of Central Lancashire, who has curated the exhibition.

Mrs Sue Morton and Jonathan
 Photo: Emily Johnston

The exhibition, which runs until the end of the year, illustrates the story of an attempt on Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain, by a German team 90 years ago.

 

Popular show is extended

A popular exhibition in the Lake District is to be extended to allow more tourists – and local people – to see the show.

Inherited Landscapes at the Heaton Cooper Studio’s archive gallery in Grasmere features the work of three generations of the same family of mountain painters.

Four paintings each are on display by Alfred Heaton Cooper (1863-1929), his son William Heaton Cooper (1863-1929) and his grandson Julian Cooper (born 1947). Julian Cooper was filmed making the selections for a recent Channel 4 TV documentary.

“The exhibition has been a huge success, with some lovely compliments from our visitors over the summer,” said studio director Rebecca Heaton Cooper, also an artist, who is William’s grand-daughter.

“Extending it to run until the end of October will allow a chance for local people, who have been busy themselves with tourists over the summer, to come and have a look.

“But it means the exhibition will also run until the end of the school half term holidays.”

Julian Cooper said: “This family has been around for three generations dealing with the same landscape. But our way of looking at it has changed over time, and with different temperaments and differing attitudes to painting which influence how we see the natural world.  I’ve chosen paintings which show the more wild and rocky aspects of the Lake District, and one can see that there are both continuities and differences between us.”

Alfred Heaton Cooper, who was recognised as one of the finest Victorian painters of his generation, established the studio back in 1905. His artist son William built the present gallery in Grasmere in 1938. For generations their paintings and books have influenced the way the landscape of the Lake District has been viewed, and the studio is recognised as one of Cumbria’s most distinguished galleries and the pre-eminent centre for landscape art in the Lake District.

Visitors to the exhibition will also have the opportunity to view works by other members of the Heaton Cooper family, including William’s wife Ophelia Gordon Bell, the sculptor famed for her head of Everest pioneer Sir Edmund Hillary. The building also houses a Scandinavian style café, Mathilde’s, designed by Rebecca Heaton Cooper.

Mountain of Destiny

An exhibition here in Grasmere of previously unseen photographs will open a window on a remarkable historic mountaineering expedition.

The Heaton Cooper gallery  will host the story of an attempt on Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain, by a German team 90 years ago. The photographs are from the private collection of the British transport officer on the expedition, alongside paintings of the mountain by Julian Cooper. It will form the curtain raiser on the Kendal Mountain Festival.

In 1929 Germany launched its first Himalayan mountaineering expedition under the leadership of Paul Bauer.  Its goals were explicitly nationalistic, motivated by a desire to rebuild a faith in German manhood and to finally leave behind the defeat and humiliation experienced in the First World War.

Bauer’s various accounts of the Kanchenjunga expeditions in 1929 and 1931 are shot through with the language of struggle and military metaphors, the celebration of mountaineering comradeship harking back to the camaraderie of the trenches.   Underpinning it all was a sense of German national destiny expressed in the language of racial theory.

But if the expedition’s goal was to establish German mountaineers on the world stage it also brought them into contact for the first time with the multi-ethnic world of the Himalayas.  The photographs taken by Bauer and his colleagues Julius Brenner and Dr Eugen Allwein all exhibit a strong ethnographic sensibility, sensitive to the ethnic diversity of Sikkim and the region.

Sherpa and Bhotia high-altitude workers are accorded special attention.  They featured in group photographs and individual portraits.  One remarkable photograph features the expedition cook Tenchaddar, seated outside a tent, praying in the Lotus position.

“The sublimity of this image is underlined by the fact that, all too often, Western mountaineers ignored and belittled the indigenous religious practices of the expeditionary labour force they relied on,” says Dr Jonathan Westaway, a mountain historian who is curating the exhibition.

Jonathan Westaway

Dr Westaway is a research fellow at the University of Central Lancashire, examining the history of mountaineering, exploration and the outdoor movement.

 

“What marks these images out as unique is that they were annotated by E.O. Shebbeare, the British transport officer on the expedition,” he says.  “A forestry official and founder member of the Himalaya Club, Shebbeare was able to name most of the Sherpas featured in the photographs, preserving for us their individuality and unique identity.”

In one tender portrait a group of seven Sherpas lies in the grass, smiling at the camera, twirling Edelweiss in their hands.  The flowers, a symbolic link with the Germans’ own Bavarian homeland, signal a tranquil moment before the fruitless struggle on the north east ridge.

 

Paintings by Julian Cooper of Kanchenjunga, and of a Himalayan porter, will also be on display.  Mountain of Destiny: Kanchenjunga 1929 captures a unique moment in German Himalayan mountaineering before the deadly focus on Nanga Parbat consumed so many mountaineering lives and before German and Austrian mountaineering organisations became subsumed into the Nazi Reich.

Chang Himal, Kanchenjunga by Julian Cooper

Mountain of Destiny: Kanchenjunga 1929: Photographs from the 1929 German Kanchenjunga Expedition presented to E.O. Shebbeare (private collection) and paintings of Kanchenjunga by the landscape artist Julian Cooper.

 

Heaton Cooper Studio Gallery, Grasmere, Cumbria, opens November 15, until December 31, part of the Kendal Mountain Festival 2018.

 

 

Kendal Mountain Festival is the world’s premier adventure film and literature festival, the most diverse, creative event of its type. It hosts an international film competition, a packed lecture programme of guest speakers, filmmakers and athletes and attracts thousands of visitors from home and overseas, hundreds of film screenings including high-profile premières and other special events over a long weekend in the Lake District.

 

Paintings, pencils…and pastry

It’s been a really busy summer, with visitors loving our exhibition Inherited Landscapes, and then calling in for coffee, cake, lunch – or even breakfast – at Mathildes.

Mathildes has been open for just over a year now, along with our new layout which connects with the archive gallery. It feels as though we’ve always had this space, as the memories of all the building work fade.

But for our visitors, there are new surprises in store, especially for those who visit the Lakes only occasionally. So we thought we would share with you a few comments from our recent customers.

These are obviously regulars: We always pay this family run gallery and shop a visit…and usually spend far too much on lovely artists’ materials( but never regret it!) It’s unusual to have a gallery that has passed through generations of artists as a viable concern. It’s always inspiring to see the Heaton-Cooper’s generational art work on display and be able to look closely at technique and detail on originals in the place they were painted.

And here’s someone who has undergone a change of heart, or mind: We haven’t been in here for a long time and it’s been brightened up and extended with a cafe. I wasn’t a fan of Heaton Cooper but this visit changed my mind. Was it me or the smarter presentation, but we’ve decided to buy one mail order as we were walking and couldn’t carry it. There’s a wide range of prints and some originals, framed or unframed and in different sizes. The paintings are a mixture with some looking traditional and others looking very up to date in style and colour. The frames are more modern than we recall as well. The prices for prints and framed versions seemed very reasonable.

It is always gratifying to hear from artists who visit us: I visited to look for art materials and was pleasantly surprised to find a lot more to engage my attention. The selection of art materials was pretty good and I was able to buy one item that I had been unable to find in a number of Paris and London art shops, so that was a good start. The gallery featured a good number of technically very competent watercolour landscapes of the Lake District. Great to see a good art shop diversifying and making a go of things off the beaten track.

Likewise this one: Really lovely art shop – made me wish I lived in the village to be able to go in there regularly for all my art supplies.

Here’s one that sums up all our efforts rather succinctly: The Heaton Cooper Studio is more than just a gallery – it tells the history of the Heaton Cooper artistic dynasty in the Lakes. In one sense (apart from the excellent new cafe) it is a timeless archive for the area. It makes all the artworks, original and prints accessible to the wide audience they deserve.

And someone who truly appreciates Mathildes: There’s a modern cafe with excellent service and if you are fed up with the steamy, cheek-by-jowl variety for your afternoon treats, then this is certainly the place for you.

Thank you for all your lovely comments, and thanks for coming back to visit us time and time again. Do say hello next time you’re in Grasmere.

Home is where the art is

A TV series took artist Julian Cooper into the heart of the Lake District landscape to show him painting on the shore of Crummock Water.

The episode of The Yorkshire Dales and the Lakes, broadcast on More 4 (Tuesday August 7) was the second TV appearance for Julian in a month this summer.

He was previously interviewed by Paul Rose while painting the Bowder Stone in Borrowdale in a BBC series which will be repeated in the autumn.

The latest programme dedicated considerable time to Julian’s place in the Heaton Cooper family of artists and to his relationship with the landscape of the Lakes, in a feature which was both lyrical in description and beautifully filmed.

Julian told narrator Ian McMillan: “The home country of the Lakes is in my head; the rocks, trees, becks are in me, in my blood, in my family tradition.”

He showed McMillan the house near Grasmere where he grew up, and from where he roamed freely on the fells. “It was here that I became interested in painting the components of the landscape.”

But first he felt the need to travel: Europe, the USA, South America, Asia. “Then the Lakes drew me back, and I realised it’s just as exotic here as Tibet or the Amazon jungle. It’s here, what I’ve taken for granted all these years.”

Julian took the film team into the archives at the Heaton Cooper studio where he was choosing paintings for the current exhibition there, Inherited Landscapes. This also features the work of his grandfather Alfred Heaton Cooper (1863-1929), and his father William Heaton Cooper (1863-1929) showing how Julian has continued the family tradition. Just four paintings by each artist are on display.

“This family has been around for three generations dealing with the same landscape,” he said. “But our way of looking at it has changed over time, and with different temperaments and differing attitudes to painting which influence how we see the natural world.  I’ve chosen paintings which show the more wild and rocky aspects of the Lake District, and one can see that there are both continuities and differences between us. The more similar the subject, the more it highlights the differences between us.”

The final scenes of the programme were filmed by Crummock Water – a family favourite picnic spot – where Julian was painting the dramatic Rannerdale Knott which appears to plunge straight into the lake. “The Lake District for me isn’t so much the lakes as the mountains. They are home in a very deep way.”

Concluded McMillan: “Home is where the heart – and the art – is.”

Inherited Landscapes runs until the end of October. The Heaton Cooper Studio is open daily from 9-5. More information: https://www.heatoncooper.co.uk/

The artist in the heart of The Lakes

Julian Cooper, recognised as Britain’s leading living mountain painter, will be featured in a TV documentary series about the Lake District which starts next week.

BBC One’s The Lakes with Paul Rose starts on Friday July 20 at 7.30pm, with the opening episode focusing on Windermere. Adventurer, explorer and TV presenter Paul Rose has filmed around the globe, but he has long wanted to create a series in the Lake District, his home for the last 20 years.

Paul Rose

In the second episode (July 27) which concentrates on Borrowdale, Julian is interviewed by Paul Rose while painting the Bowder Stone. This is one of the Lake District’s most famous and curious features, a 2000 ton stone, some 30 feet high and fifty feet across, which apparently rests in a state of delicate balance.

 

It was not carried into the area by ice but is a local rock that toppled into its present position after the glacier that once almost filled Borrowdale retreated and no longer buttressed the steep side of the valley. This resulted in a large rock fall. Other rocks that fell at the same time are now largely obscured by trees and soil.

The Bowderstone

In the TV episode Julian talks to Paul Rose about the rock, and about his interest in it as an artist.

Paul then goes on further into Borrowdale, and climbs Great Gable. It’s a four part series which, at last, truly captures the essence of the majesty of the Lake District landscape, thanks to sensitive direction and production values, stunning camera-work, and a presenter who knows and loves what he’s talking about.

Truly captures the essence of the majesty of the Lake District landscape, thanks to sensitive direction and production values, stunning camera-work, and a presenter who knows and loves what he’s talking about

“I’m very excited about the series because I live in the Lake District, it’s my home,” says Paul, who lives in Windermere. “I’ve filmed all over the world, but I’ve always wanted to film a series in the Lake District.”

The Inherited Landscape exhibition is a fascinating insight into three generations of artists dealing with the same landscape. Julian says: “Our way of looking at it has changed over time, and with different temperaments and differing attitudes to painting which influence how we see the natural world.  I’ve chosen paintings which show the more wild and rocky aspects of the Lake District, and one can see that there are both continuities and differences between us.”

Alfred Heaton Cooper, who was recognised as one of the finest Victorian painters of his generation, established the studio back in 1905. His artist son William built the present gallery in Grasmere in 1938. For generations their paintings and books have influenced the way the landscape of the Lake District has been viewed, and the studio is recognised as one of Cumbria’s most distinguished galleries and the pre-eminent centre for landscape art in the Lake District.

Julian Cooper says that one of the differences is that the landscapes of his father and grandfather made paintings of a “view” whereas in his own work he’s interested in focussing on what is at touching distance, with a rough edge to it. His own four paintings of the intimate and mysterious relationship between rocks and trees are all set within a mile of each other on High and Low Rigg, representing “the raw materials of Lakeland”.

“My father’s work by comparison represented nature as ordered, calm and serene, and very beautiful.”

With unique access across a wide range of expert fields, Paul Rose is constantly working to raise awareness of global issues such as the understanding and protection of our ecosystems, biodiversity, climate change and sustainability.

He was awarded the Royal Geographical Society’s 2018 Founder’s Medal, for scientific expeditions and enhancing public understanding, one of the Royal Medals approved by the Queen, which are among the highest honours of their kind in the world. Previous recipients include Sir David Attenborough.

His career has also included educational talks in the desert, moderating the human performance debates at the London 2012 Olympics, and presenting the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall.

Julian talks to actors Kika and Petra Markham about the exhibition

 

The generation game

A celebration of the Lake District through the paintings of three generations of one family will be staged here in Grasmere this summer.

Inherited Landscapes is an exhibition at the Heaton Cooper Studio. It features the work of Alfred Heaton Cooper (1863-1929), his son William Heaton Cooper (1863-1929) and his grandson Julian Cooper (born 1947), who has continued the family tradition of painting mountain landscapes.

The four paintings by each artist have been chosen by Julian Cooper, who was filmed making the selections for a Channel 4 TV documentary.

“This family has been around for three generations dealing with the same landscape,” he said. “But our way of looking at it has changed over time, and with different temperaments and differing attitudes to painting which influence how we see the natural world.  I’ve chosen paintings which show the more wild and rocky aspects of the Lake District, and one can see that there are both continuities and differences between us.”

Alfred Heaton Cooper, who was recognised as one of the finest Victorian painters of his generation, established the studio back in 1905. His artist son William built the present gallery in Grasmere in 1938. For generations their paintings and books have influenced the way the landscape of the Lake District has been viewed, and the studio is recognised as one of Cumbria’s most distinguished galleries and the pre-eminent centre for landscape art in the Lake District.

 

The Lakeland landscape through three generations: Above: William Heaton Cooper. Below: William Heaton Cooper and Julian Cooper

Julian Cooper says that one of the differences is that the landscapes of his father and grandfather made paintings of a “view” whereas in his own work he’s interested in focussing on what is at touching distance, with a rough edge to it. His own four paintings of the intimate and mysterious relationship between rocks and trees are all set within a mile of each other on High and Low Rigg, representing “the raw materials of Lakeland”.

“My father’s work by comparison represented nature as ordered, calm and serene, and very beautiful.”

Recent exhibitions have featured the artists individually. From Fells to Fjords highlighted the Scandinavian influence in the work of Alfred Heaton Cooper, showing the artist’s process from sketchbook drawings done from life, up to the finished paintings and then onto the colour plates documenting all aspects of Scandinavian life and landscape in the period from 1890 to 1927, which were used to illustrate a series of guide books.

Lines of Ascent featured the work William Heaton Cooper produced for the Fell and Rock Climbing Club guides for 50 years from 1930s onwards. The books were bibles for the climbing community, showing new routes as they developed, drawn on site and working closely with the climbers at the crag face.

Last summer a major retrospective exhibition of Julian’s work at Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal marked his 70th birthday, following other exhibitions at Art Space Gallery in London and at the Studio in Grasmere.

Visitors to the exhibition will also have the opportunity to view works by other members of the Heaton Cooper family, including William’s wife Ophelia Gordon Bell, the sculptor famed for her head of Everest pioneer Sir Edmund Hillary.

The building also houses a new Scandinavian style café, Mathilde’s, designed by the studio’s director Rebecca Heaton Cooper, also an artist, who is William’s grand-daughter.

She said: “This is a very significant exhibition of works chosen to illustrate how different artists can be influenced by the same landscape and yet portray that landscape in very different ways.”

The exhibition will run until the end of October.

Midsummer celebrations for first birthday

A midsummer celebration is under way in Grasmere to mark the first birthday of the village’s most distinctive new café, Mathilde’s.

Part of the Heaton Cooper Studio in the centre of the popular tourist destination, Mathilde’s has won both fans and praise during its first 12 months.

With a menu heavily influenced by Scandinavian food, the café is following traditions of Norway and Sweden, where Midsummer’s Eve is one of the most important days of the year, rivalling Christmas with its festive spirit.

“Our café has become the heart and soul of Grasmere for visitors from all over the world who love art and good food,” said studio director Becky Heaton Cooper.

“It was named after the wife of Alfred Heaton Cooper, the young country girl from Norway who fell in love with an English painter and together they founded a dynasty of great landscape artists. So we are very pleased to be celebrating our first anniversary in Scandinavian style.”

Mathilde’s terrace

A new menu of Scandinavian speciality “smorgasbords”, is launched this week, featuring meat and fish dishes such as air-dried juniper mutton, venison salami, ham hock and capers, roll mop herring and dill cured gravlax salmon.

These are served with rye bread and crisp breads, pickles and green tomato relish. There will be special celebration cakes and summery drinks featuring lingonberries available in the café.

Mathilde’s menu also includes dishes such as salt baked beetroot salad,  slow cooked belly of pork with hasselback potatoes, asparagus, peas and smoked oats; and kottbullar, a Scandinavian meatball dish with chive and potato salad, cream gravy, sauerkraut and lingonberry.

Mathilde’s has been featured in a number of magazines during its first year, and was a finalist in two categories in the Cumbria food and drink awards, for best newcomer and best cafe.

Becky said: “The café, with its popular terrace and huge window looking onto the fells, was part of our expansion project which includes the new archive gallery. It has been successful way beyond our expectations.

“We have a great team, led by chef Rob McGill and manager Nicola Tickle, and they have developed a menu which our visitors really love.”

In Scandinavian countries, traditionally Midsummer was celebrated on June 24, the feast day of St. John the Baptist, but the holiday has its roots in a pre-Christian solstice festival.

The focus of Midsummer celebrations is the maypole (or Midsummer pole) decorated with greenery and flowers. The maypole is a comparatively new part of the Midsummer tradition, coming from Germany, where the pole was decorated with leaves and raised on May 1. Since spring comes later to Scandinavian countries it was hard to find the greenery to decorate the pole on May 1, so the tradition was moved to Midsummer.

Mathilde Heaton Cooper played a quietly supportive role in the life of Alfred Heaton Cooper, and gave birth to their son, William. The father and son became known as the most famous of the English landscape artists of their respective generations. Her grandson, Julian Cooper, is now Britain’s foremost painter of mountain scenes.

TV appearances for artist Julian Cooper

We are very proud that the Lake District artist Julian Cooper is to feature on two TV programmes this summer.

Julian, a key member of our family team here,  will be seen painting in the Lakes in a show presented by explorer and broadcaster Paul Rose.

The Lakes with Paul Rose will be shown on BBC2 next month. Viewers will see Julian at work painting the Bowder Stone in Borrowdale.

Also this summer, More 4 will screen an episode of The Yorkshire Dales and the Lakes, which will feature Julian at his studio in Cockermouth, painting Rannerdale Knott from the shore of Crummock, and choosing paintings for a new exhibition of his family’s work at our Heaton Cooper Studio. Both his father and grandfather were eminent painters of the Lake District landscape.

Last summer an exhibition devoted to Julian’s work was the first to be shown at the re-opening of our Archive Gallery here in Grasmere.

It followed two other big events which marked the artist’s 70th year. A  London exhibition, Upstream, ran at Art Space Gallery, and in Kendal, the Abbot Hall Art Gallery showed more than  30 monumental paintings from his extensive output and reflecting the artist’s travels.

Julian’s father,  William Heaton Cooper (1903-1995) was a successful painter of the Lake District, as was his grandfather, Alfred Heaton Cooper (1863-1929), and his mother was the sculptor Ophelia Gordon Bell (1915-1975). You can see examples of their work if you visit us.

Julian studied Fine Art at Goldsmith’s College School of Art in the late 1960s. In a career spanning three decades, his work has ranged from narrative paintings based on Malcom Lowry’s novel Under the Volcano to a series of paintings about the assassination of the Brazilian union leader and environmentalist Chico Mendes in Amazonia, in 1989.

His more recent work has been concerned with the many and diverse human attitudes to mountain landscapes worldwide. In 2001 his Mind has Mountains exhibition at the Wordsworth Trust and in London showed paintings made after an expedition to the Kanchenjunga region of Nepal; noticeable was an absence of sky and a concentration on selected areas of terrain.

His solo exhibition Cliffs of Fall in 2004 at Art Space Gallery  showed work based on a comparative study of the North Face of the Eiger in Switzerland and the Honister Slate Mine in the English Lake District.

Family gather to celebrate Lakes artist

A reception to celebrate the life and work of the artist Jean Sturgis brought members of her family and friends to Grasmere.

An exhibition of Jean’s paintings, featuring the Lake District, particularly Kentmere, where she spent her last years, and Italy, will run until the middle of June.

But this was a family gathering, with several generations represented, and all very proud of Jean’s beautiful work from across the span of her career, revealing an artist of great sensitivity with a distinct and expressive vision.

We featured her life story here . Jean settled eventually in Kentmere where she developed a beautiful garden, Jean continued both to paint and to etch. Her later works retain all their sense of engagement and particularity. She said: “Landscape; buildings in their setting, whether urban or rural; trees and flowers in their surroundings: these have always been the stimuli for my work.”

The evening was a delightful informal event in our  small and intimate space, with canapes provided by our head chef in Mathilde’s cafe, Rob McGill.

Here is Jean’s immediate family.

They are her husband, Tim, an architect, with four of their children.
From left to right:
The artist Daniel Sturgis; Alexander Sturgis, director of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford (and a magician member of the Magic Circle); Louise Frith-Powell, artist and head of art at Ampleforth College; and Matthew Sturgis, writer, biographer of Oscar Wilde, Aubrey Beardsley, Walter Sickert. Matthew is also co-author  of The Chronicles of Downton Abbey, the official companion to all three seasons of the TV series.

Jean Sturgis: the painter who links Cumbria and Italy

She was an acclaimed artist and illustrator with Cumbrian roots and a love of Italy. Now the life and work of Jean Sturgis is celebrated in a lovely exhibition at our archive gallery here in Grasmere.

This exhibition of paintings, drawings and etchings  brings together work from across the span of her career, revealing an artist of great sensitivity with a distinct and expressive vision.

Born Jean Nicoll, in 1931 just outside Kendal, she was the daughter of J.S. Nicoll, a Director of K shoes, who encouraged her early enthusiasm for art. She died at Kentmere two years ago.

Among her father’s friends were the artists Robin Wallace and William Wilson, and Jean, as a girl, was able work with them, when her father invited them to the family home at Staveley to lead painting courses for local children.

She studied art first at Goldsmiths College, London and then at the Slade School of Art. “It was a stimulating and challenging time,” says her artist son Daniel Sturgis. “Among her painting tutors were William Coldstream (the founder of the Euston Road Group), Patrick George, Maurice Field and L.S. Lowry. She learnt etching and print-making from the brilliant print-maker John Buckland-Wright. The emphasis of the teaching was always towards careful observation and working directly from the motif.”

In 1953, Jean was awarded a prestigious travelling scholarship that allowed her to work at the British School at Rome. Her 18 months in Italy –first in Rome, then in the little hill-top town of Anticoli Corrado – instilled in her a life-long love of the country, its art and its people.

Returning to England she settled in London, exhibiting in various shows in Edinburgh and London, including the Leicester Galleries, one the most prominent forums for post-war British painting. She also taught at Queen’s Gate School, and in mental hospitals.

In 1958 she married the architect Tim Sturgis and together they had five children. “Her dedication to family life altered the trajectory of her artistic career, but she continued to paint, and to engage with the arts in other ways,” says Daniel

Jean was the Chief Examiner for O Level Art for the Oxford & Cambridge Examination Board, and taught art at the Westminster Under School. She also contributed acclaimed plant-drawings and watercolours to several gardening books, for authors including Rosemary Verey, Penelope Hobhouse and Esme Clarke. She contributed water-colour garden plans for books on Levens Hall, and Hatfield House, as well as for Hugh Cavendish’s A Time to Plant – Life and Gardening at Holker.

She returned to exhibiting in the 1990s, with a series of one-person shows in London – first at the Clarendon Gallery, and then at the Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery. In 2009 she was selected by Mary Burkett as one of five-artists in group exhibition at the Red Barn Gallery, in Melkinthorpe.

Settling in Kentmere where she developed a beautiful garden, Jean continued both to paint and to etch. Her later works retain all their sense of engagement and particularity. She said: “Landscape; buildings in their setting, whether urban or rural; trees and flowers in their surroundings: these have always been the stimuli for my work.”

This exhibition, created by son Daniel with the artist Julian Cooper, will run at the Heaton Cooper archive gallery on until the end of June. It promises a fascinating insight to the life and work of a very talented artist whose work deserves wider recognition.