News

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.