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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.

 

Through the enchanted wood to Alcock Tarn

 

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.

Small is beautiful, and while the Lake District boasts the longest and deepest waters in the country, there are some exquisitely beautiful tiny tarns hidden in the hills.

One that was a particular favourite of William Heaton Cooper is Alcock Tarn, reached by a short but steep climb out of Grasmere village on one of the most enchanting routes you will ever walk. It takes you to a small sheet of water, held onto a shelf by glacial debris, which was dammed at the end of the 19th century by a Mr Alcock, who stocked it with brown and rainbow trout.

Alcock Tarn by William Heaton Cooper

And WH Cooper enjoyed it for more than just the fish and the views. He wrote, in The Tarns of Lakeland: “After a few days of hard frost without wind this tarn, being shallow and above the thousand foot level, gives some of the earliest skating of the winter in a very pleasant setting.”

So how to get there? Leave the village along Stock Lane and cross the main road at the roundabout by Dove Cottage. Walk up the back road behind the cottage. Ignore the first footpath sign on the left, go 100 yards further to much more prominent junction and large signpost, with White Moss and Ambleside to the right, and Alcock Tarn up left. (No through road for motor vehicles after half a mile). After that you’ll find series of signposts; take the one pointing left to Alcock Tarn.

We advise: this is a long mile and a quarter! Allow a good hour for the ascent, if you want to take advantage of the views.

A lovely shingle path heads up through the woodland after going through the gate at Brackenfell. Early autumn sees wonderful colours, and you will be able to see more of the lake below as the leaves fall. Pass a small pond on right, then the path gets steeper and rougher; this is definitely not a pushchair friendly route. But anyone with reasonable fitness and stout shoes will manage happily.

A bench on the right commemorates the life of someone with the initials NAH, but the view is obscured by newer tall larches. But as you climb, you can see the shapely summit of Helm Crag, another favourite subject of the Heaton Cooper artists. A second bench above the trees gives a magnificent view down across the lake…and shows the sprawling extent of the village of Grasmere.

The last time we were there, we entered the mist before we reached the tarn, and so it came as a surprise, appearing suddenly, flanked by ghostly crags; the tarn is hidden behind Grey Crag until the last moment. A man from Manchester, reliving his childhood, had taken off his boots and was paddling in the shallows. “We used to swim in there 50 years ago,” his friend said.

On the way back you’ll notice the green swathe path dropping steeply down to the valley. It’s the route of the Butter Crags fell race at the annual Grasmere Sports. Don’t be tempted; it’s on private land. But there is an alternative path down once you reach the yellow and white arrow signs; take the white track on the permissive path which brings you out further north on the main road.

 

Take the road back into the village for well-deserved lunch or afternoon tea at Mathilde’s, at the Heaton Cooper Studio opposite the village green. The café, shop and gallery are open every day from 9am, and along with coffee, cakes, soup, salads and Scandinavian-style open sandwiches, you can find fine-art prints of the views you had along the way.

A walk to make everyone happy

 Mathilde Walks: The first in 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. And every walk connects to a painting by one of the Heaton Cooper artists. Today: Grasmere, by William Heaton Cooper

SOMETIMES you have to use a bit of persuasion when planning a walk. It’s not just reluctant children, but diffident adults too, who present the excuses: It’s too hot, it’s too far, it’s too cold, it’s too steep, I’m hungry.

So here’s a walk that deals with every possible excuse. If the weather is hot, there’s a lot of shade under the trees. It’s not far, but you get some of the best views in the whole of Lakeland. If it’s cold, this one presents no dangers even if there’s snow on the ground. Steep? There’s  just a couple of tiny uphills, and apart from a few manageable steps it’s good going for pushchairs.

Throw in a perfect beach where you can swim, paddle or skim stones and your team will be racing on ahead. And as for being hungry? Wait and see what’s in store along the way.

This walk starts at the White Moss car park on the A591 between Rydal and Grasmere, grid ref. NY 351065. Follow the path through the wood to the River Rothay but stay on the north side, rather than crossing the bridge, with its industrial-style accessible design built onto old stone foundations, functional rather than beautiful.

Walk along with the river on your left, passing through three gates, and a short, winding uphill stretch, (take the left fork at a bifurcation in the path) before crossing the new wooden footbridge. No one used the word bifurcation until Wainwright wrote his guidebooks, we think.

Once over the bridge, turn right to pass the weir that marks the boundary between Grasmere and Rydal, then follow the Grasmere lake shore through Penny Rock Wood and its delightful beach. Why Penny Rock? The story goes that when the road to Grasmere was first being built, workers had to blast out the rock on the corner by the lake, and the cost of this added a penny to everyone’s rates.

The trees, many of them splendid old specimens, fringe the lake shore and rise into Deerbolts Wood, though you’d have to make the walk very early in the morning  to see any deer or red squirrels. Concentrate instead on the view ahead, Helm Crag in the distance or, close by, a dilapidated old stone boathouse with a lichen-covered slate roof. There’s also a wonderful hollow tree where generations of children have played.

The path opens out, with sheep in a field on the left, then climbs briefly to meet the road from where it’s only a short walk down into Grasmere village. Spot the Victorian letterbox set into the wall of a cottage on your right. After passing the boat-landings, the road takes a sharp right turn, and then shortly you’ll turn left at Tweedies hotel to head for your coffee break.

Mathilde’s is at the Heaton Cooper Studio opposite the village green. The café, shop and gallery are open every day from 9am, and along with coffee, cakes, soup, salads and Scandinavian-style open sandwiches, you can find fine-art prints of the views you had along the way. In fact, if you do too much shopping (is there such a thing?) or too much eating, it’s possible to catch the bus back to White Moss, from the stop just across the road.

Otherwise there are two options: go back the way you came along the lake shore, or walk through the village and across the main road to take a quiet back road behind Dove Cottage. Even with this alternative, the total walk won’t be more than 10k (6 miles).

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.