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Syttende mai – 17th May

There are lots of memorable international celebrations around the globe… In New York there’s the St Patrick’s Day, in Brazil there’s Carnival, and in Edinburgh there’s Hogmanay… what you might not know about is Norway’s answer…

On 17 May every year Norway comes to a standstill as the population commemorates the signing of their constitution on that date in 1814…

Norwegians pull out all the stops. “Syttende mai” as it’s known is the biggest street party Norway has all year, easily eclipsing New Year’s Eve…

Alfred Heaton Cooper Norwegian Fjords Illustrated Book

This is a serious party for everyone, especially for children… it’s a national day with a twist and food figures in a big way…

Before people take to the streets, they go for breakfast with friends and neighbours, sharing freshly baked bread, scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, and a glass of fizz…

Then it’s time for a spot of flag waving, even the Norwegian Royal Family get stuck in… enjoying a day of constant waving…

Alfred Heaton Cooper Sketch Of Bergen Harbour

Then after all the parades and flag waving fun the national obsession with eating huge amounts of ice cream and consuming copious numbers of hot dogs kicks in… So, if you’re on a diet just forget counting the calories today…

All in all, the day is a riot of colour and celebration and to mark our Norwegian heritage Mathilde’s is joining in with the fun too… after all it’s an excuse for us to celebrate the deep seated love between Alfred Heaton Cooper and his beloved Mathilde Marie Valentinsen… a gentle Norwegian country girl who stole away his heart in the small Norwegian village of Balestrand, beside the iconic Sognefjord…

Photograph of Bergen in 1890’s

So, when you pop in for a bite to eat don’t forget to practice a little Norwegian and have a go at traditional Norway Day greeting of “Gratulerer med dagen!”, which literally means “Congratulations of the day”.

The Art of Drawing – World Drawing Day

Art is literally as old as the hills… but drawing it seems is one of the earliest forms of humankind’s desire to express itself…

A small piece of rock covered with a symbol akin to what we know as a hashtag found during an archaeological dig in the South Africa’s famous Blombos Cave in 2015 revealed the 73,000-year-old drawing…

Made using a red-ochre crayon the symbol was applied to the rock’s face and then seemingly discarded… but it’s not the only one of its kind, similar symbols have been found at sites in France and Australia… though this predates earlier known drawings by some 30,000 years!

This form of drawing may be simple; merely the making of a mark but modern dictionary definitions refer to drawing as the formation of a line by drawing some tracing instrument from point to point on a surface arranging lines to determine a form. The modern interpretation has come to include the use of colour, shading, and other elements in addition to the simple act of arranging lines on a surface.

William Heaton Cooper Sketchbook Allen Bank

Early civilisations such as the Ancient Egyptians decorated the walls of their temples and tombs with flat linear drawings depicting daily life, and created texts written on papyrus illustrated with similar designs.

In the post Roman period from 400’s to the late 1300’s, art in all its forms glorified God and shared religious messages to the masses – drawing in particular emerged as the main form of decoration, as monks used drawings to adorn bibles and prayer books.

Drawing in western culture became a highly regarded independent artistic art form in the 1400’s, with modern drawing beginning in earnest in Italy. This period in time later known as the Renaissance, saw the rise of drawing as a true art form, a form that came to be considered the foundation for work in all the arts.

Art students first trained in drawing before going on to painting, sculpture, or even architecture. Drawing was used as a tool for the study of form, which was becoming increasingly important both in terms of nature and in terms of the portrayal of the human body. The need for preparatory drawings also grew during the Renaissance, as many large-scale paintings were produced to decorate the interiors of churches, palaces, and public buildings. Drawings were an important tool in helping to create the finished work.

William Heaton Copper Sketchbook Allen Bank Colour

Renaissance artists continued to use pen and ink for drawing. But they turned increasingly to softer materials, such as black and red chalks and charcoal, to make larger drawings and to achieve a greater variety of effects, shading was also introduced to suggest solids forms and textures. Among the most celebrated draftsmen of the period are notables such as Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci.

Certainly, many creative people have over the centuries have stressed the importance of drawing as a fundamental underpinning of their work in other art forms. As Degas said; “Drawing is the artist’s most direct and spontaneous expression, a species of writing: it reveals, better than does painting, his true personality.” There is no question that the term drawing applies to works that vary greatly in technique, indeed over the years it has been understood in very different ways and as a result is in reality quite difficult to define.

For example, during the Renaissance the term ‘disegno’ from the Italian word for drawing or design, has a much more complex meaning in art, involving both the ability to make the drawing and the intellectual capacity as the creative idea made visible in the preliminary sketch. This ability to invent, or create, put artists on a footing with God, the ultimate creator, and was used as a means of raising the status of painting from craft to art.

Alfred Heaton Cooper -Entrance To Bergen Harbour

John Ruskin commented in the Elements of Drawing: “All art is but dirtying the paper delicately.” Throughout history, drawing has been the foundation for artistic practice, commonly used as a tool for thought and investigation, acting as a study medium whilst artists were preparing for their final pieces of work. The Renaissance brought about a great sophistication in drawing techniques, enabling artists to represent things more realistically than before.

A sophistication seen across the varying styles of work produced by the artists from the Lake District’s Heaton Cooper family, who have all used the medium of drawing to great effect to capture and inform their artistic works.

The Scandinavian body of work created by Alfred Heaton Cooper, between 1890 to 1927, shows the artist’s process from sketchbook drawing done from life, up to the finished painting, precisely documenting all aspects of life and landscape in during that period to illustrate a series of guidebooks.

Alfred Heaton Cooper Norwegian Fjords Illustrated Book

William Heaton Cooper later, produced highly detailed drawings for the Fell and Rock-Climbing Club guides for over 50 years. These books became the bibles of the climbing fraternity, they depicted new routes as they were developed, often drawn on site working closely with the climbers who devised the routes at the very rock face.

And now William’s son, Julian Cooper, inspired by his local landscapes, uses drawing to focus on form and experiment with tonality, to depict planes and structure of a common enough element in almost every landscape, rock…. On a big scale they are mountains, on a small-scale they are the boulders or stones in a field… drawing captures their essence and informs his resulting works…

Alfred Heaton Cooper Ennerdale Sketchbook

The invention and popular rise of photography had a fundamental effect on artists’ drawing, the need for them to copy reality no longer existed… but instead this ushered in an age of experimentation, which saw the advent of Impressionism, Cubism, Dada, Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Vorticism, Constructivism and so on…  All of these artistic movements experimented with a range of drawing media, previously frowned up on, charcoal, inks, graphite all became the common currency for drawing.

As abstraction became increasingly popular in the early 20th century, the role of drawing changed yet again…  becoming something of interest, rather than just an output leading to the creation of a work in another form… simply put “Drawing is the honesty of the art, there is no possibility of cheating, it is either good or bad…” (Salvador Dali).

 

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

International Sculpture Day

The Heaton Cooper Studio, like many galleries around the world is celebrating International Sculpture Day (27th April), an annual global celebration of sculpture, established to raise awareness, appreciation and enjoyment of sculpture as an art form throughout the world.

We, however, have more reason than most to celebrate this exquisite art form as one of our family members excelled in this medium…

That family member was Ophelia Gordon Bell, the daughter of accomplished animal painter Winifred Gordon Bell. By her mid-teens Ophelia was well on her way to becoming an accomplished artist in her own right, studying at the Regent Street Polytechnic Sculpture School, London, where she learnt to work in a variety of materials, including stone, wood, metal, clay and plaster.

 

Like many sculptors Ophelia was fascinated by the origins of the art form… small sculptures as personal possessions are some of the earliest forms of prehistoric art, and the use of large statement sculptural pieces of as public art goes back at least 4,500 years…

If you simply take a little time and consider this question… what we would know of ancient cultures without sculpture?

From the cave carvings of the pre-historic to the works of the great masters, sculptural art has been the one consistent way we as humans have expressed ourselves throughout the ages. Before the written word, sculptural art was the main form of expression, conveying our beliefs and views on the world around us.

We make immediate associations to long-departed cultures through in the main the sculptural works they left behind, for example the ancient Egyptians and the Sphinx, the Chinese Emperors and the terracotta army, the Greeks with their love of the human form and the Romans elevating their rulers to become gods.

Sculpture by definition is three-dimensional art made by one of four basic processes: carving, modelling, casting, constructing.

 

It is quite simply the most enduring form art known to human kind, it has played a major role in the evolution of our culture. Perhaps it endures to this day as our main form of cultural expression and of memorial because of the unique way in which it expresses itself, unlike other art forms, it patiently waits for us to sit and experience the ideas it seeks to convey…

Sculpture comes to life through the play of light during the day, the surroundings in which the piece sits and because it is solid and usually three dimensional, which means we can interact and view it in any number of ways as a result. Viewing a sculpture is very different than seeing a flat painting hanging on a wall. You can walk around it, look through it, over it or into it.

The materials used in sculpture are diverse, including metal, stone and clay, with cheaper, less durable materials; including wood, bone and antler. Perhaps it is this diversity that appeals, the textures produce quite different visual effects according to whether they are convex or concave, flat or modelled, coloured or uncoloured.

 

This is why sculpture continues to play such an important role in human expression – Ophelia understood all of this better than most and used her knowledge to great effect to create a body of work utilising a broad range of natural materials that to this day inspires and intrigues the beholder…

World Art Day

World Art Day is held on April 15th, each year, a date chosen by the International Association of Art to mark the birthday of Leonardo da Vinci’s birthday.

Da Vinci was chosen as a symbol world peace, freedom of expression, tolerance, brotherhood and multiculturalism. The overall idea is to emphasize the importance of art in the lives of everyone, but why celebrate art for just one day?

The Heaton Cooper Studio’s Archive Gallery shines a spotlight on the creative endeavours of mountain artists the world over… our aim is to encourage you to stop and appreciate the wonderful creativity that surrounds you… the creativity of nature, which generations of artists in the Heaton Cooper family have strived to capture…

Blea Tarn by William Heaton Cooper

Why have the artists in the family focussed on mountains? Quite simply humans throughout time have a deep-seated affinity with these leviathans in the landscape – mountains have in essence always been part of a commonly held system of ancestor worship since the dawn of time. We have immortalized fallen brethren in their edifice, we see them as sites of revelation and inspiration part of an ever-present quest to purify the spirit and find renewal.

Wastwater by William Heaton Cooper

Artists themselves are no different, depicting mountain landscapes seeking to reconcile the objective, visual, geological truth of mountains with the subjective, mental, emotional experience of mountain scenery. Some simply wish to represent or replicate their obvious beauty, whilst others opt to study and explore various aesthetic elements, like light, colour, and texture and some use mountain scenes to tell a story, illustrate an idea, or conceptualize a metaphor.

Whatever the artists’ reasoning the inextricable link between the worship of the ancestors and mountains is largely inseparable, it forms an interconnected web between history, landscape, and culture, one that has been formed over millennia, a web that to this day connects us to mountain landscapes…

Ullswater & Grisedale by William Heaton Cooper

And we at the Heaton Cooper Studio are proud to show this connection…

As part of the celebration of World Art Day 2019 we are honoured to be able to show a remarkable piece of Lake District mountain history. 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 – a plaque that was for many years set into the summit of Great Gable, the seventh highest mountain in the Lake District.

We Remember – Fell & Rock Climbing Club

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 marks the centenary of a campaign to buy Great Gable for the nation as a memorial to the 20 climbers who died in that Great War…This most vivid of memorials to the fallen, it could be argued is a very tangible link between ancestors, the act of remembrance and mountain landscapes…

It has been said art is the most genuine expression of the human soul… an expression that describes the story of humanity.

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

 

The majesty of King Arthur

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.

 

After months of sitting in Mathilde’s, sipping coffee and making plans and staring out of the window, it’s time to move. You’ve been there, you know that wonderful window with the view out onto the fells, and you might even know that the craggy bastion on the opposite side of the valley is called Stone Arthur.

Stone Arthur from the window of Mathilde’s

 

We’re not entirely sure why it has that name, but we’re very willing to believe in the local connections to the legends of King Arthur. The writer Mary Stewart, in her novel The Hollow Hills, placed some of the action on an island in a lake. Could that be the island in Grasmere? There’s certainly stories about Arthur hiding out at Wythburn chapel, just a few miles up the road.

So that’s good enough for us to believe in the kingly properties of this modest fell, just 1652 feet high. And who, with a bit of adventure in their soul, could resist the challenge after looking up at those crags for so long?

Stone Arthur in Winter by William Heaton Cooper

So finish your coffee, and be assured that you’ll be back in time for lunch, or afternoon tea; it’s not a long walk.

But it IS a steep climb, at least in the initial stages. Turn left from our studio and head out of the village and across the main road, aiming for the Swan Hotel. There’s a narrow tarmac lane beside it, which takes you alongside the lower reaches of Greenhead Gill, to a newly-built gate. Through here, take the signposted path to the left and start climbing.

It’s a rocky step-built path with a forbidding-looking wood on your left (just the sort of place you can imagine Arthur’s men lying in wait). The gradient eases when you reach the open fell, crossing a small beck and following the clear path that contours around the steep ground ahead.

But do keep stopping to look back. This hillside offers truly wonderful views across to Easedale Tarn, and down into Grasmere village. In fact, you can look directly at the window in Mathilde’s (where those with less adventure in their souls will be sitting, with their coffees, gazing upwards. Now is NOT the time to envy them!)

Occasionally there are sections of newly-built path, and just a few patches of boggy ground (though we went up there after the recent floods and returned with dry feet, so it’s nothing you can’t jump across.)

Then the summit…something of a disappointment in one way, for that craggy promontory seen from the valley is just the beginning of a long ridge or spur that leads on to Great Rigg. But the rocks themselves look almost like a castle, and the views are spectacular.

If you’re inspired, and not exhausted, then the path to Great Rigg is only about a mile, and it’s easy to follow. You might even want to carry on and tackle the whole of the Fairfield Horseshoe, but please, only do that if you’ve brought extra layers, good waterproofs, a map and compass, for the full route is one of Lakeland’s major undertakings.

Otherwise, follow the path back to the valley, or take a detour back via Alcock Tarn which we wrote about here https://www.heatoncooper.co.uk/through-the-enchanted-wood-to-alcock-tarn/

And then, a well deserved cake, or an open sandwich, or a bowl of soup, and you can sit in the window looking out on that view knowing that you’ve made the acquaintance of a king.

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.

The winter warmer

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.

A brisk walk is the best way to warm up in winter, and we’ve found you a route that will take you through some of the finest Lakeland countryside, taking in some iconic heritage sites, that will bring you to Mathildes in time for lunch.

It’s a low level walk so you won’t need to worry about route finding or snow on the fells, but we can guarantee that you’ll work up an appetite for spiced carrot soup, garnished with sprouted seeds and pickled veg. Or maybe you want something more substantial? Perhaps kalops stew, a traditional Swedish beef stew  with toasted hazelnuts, pickled parsnip and roasted leek, and served with our home made Viking bread?

Too late for lunch, or too early? How about a mulled spice fruit scone, and a mug of white hot chocolate with cloudberry liqueur? There’s a dark chocolate version, too, with a dash of liquorice vodka.

So now your appetite is whetted, you have to earn the treat! This walk starts in Ambleside where you can park on Rydal Road. Cross the main road, take the uphill lane Smithy Brow at the mini roundabout, then immediately left to take the back road – Nook Lane – behind the university of Cumbria campus.

Through a couple of gates, you’ll come to Low Sweden Bridge where Scandale beck tumbles to the valley. Follow the path to the left, heading downhill through a gate on a steepish path beside the beck, to a heavy metal gate that might take some effort to lift! Turn right here onto the broad track that runs alongside Rydal Park, the scene in high summer every year of our annual spectacular event , Ambleside Sports.

Snowy morning, Rydal, by A Heaton Cooper

The track leads you through the grounds of Rydal Hall, now owned by the diocese of Carlisle, with its grand and formal gardens designed by Thomas Morton.

At the road junction turn right up the steep hill to pass Rydal Mount on your left, the home of William Wordsworth for most of his life. (The house is closed except by appointment in winter, but open daily in the summer, so do come back to have a look around, and to visit the wonderful gardens that Wordsworth started to landscape.)

Beyond the house, take the signed footpath on the left, beside a high wall at first. This is the start of the Coffin Trail, an old corpse road that was used in medieval times to carry the dead to the consecrated ground at St Oswald’s in Grasmere for burial.

It’s never really very far above the main road, but it’s a totally different world up here, the splendid winter skeletons of magnificent trees, and birds along the way.

Stay on the path, rather than dropping down to the main road at White Moss, until it meets a tarmac road that will bring you behind Dove Cottage – Wordsworth’s first family home – and the crossing of the busy main road to take you past another sports field (Grasmere Sports) and the local school, into our village, and a well earned rest and that anticipated lunch at Mathildes.

The return journey leads round the back of Grasmere, past the boat landings known as Faeryland, and up the road for almost a mile, taking the second footpath sign on the left, which will lead you into Deerbolts wood. Keep to the upper path which will bring you onto Loughrigg terrace, named after the fell that rises on your right.

Below you is Rydal Water, one of the smallest lakes at 3/4 mile long, 1/4 mile wide and with a depth of 55 feet. As you head towards the foot of the lake, the path takes you to the entrance of Rydal cave, a huge cavern which was once a slate quarry. It’s safe to go inside, following the stepping stones.

Then drop down a steep and slatey path, round the back of Cote How and down to Pelter Bridge. From here, ignore the call of the main road, and turn right onto the delightful and quiet minor road under Loughrigg, with the river Rothay on your left. After a mile, cross a cattle grid, and go over the old packhorse bridge that leads into Rothay Park and a short stroll back into Ambleside.

Winter in Grasmere by W Heaton Cooper

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.

 

The magic mountain

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.

Most of the Mathilde walks so far have been low level, but we want to take you up a mountain, a rather special mountain that looks much grander than its modest height, and whose ascent will give you a real sense of achievement.

The outline of Helm Crag may well be the best known of all the Lakeland fells, from one angle, a lion and lamb, from another a Wurlitzer organ being played by a woman.

Helm Crag, painted by William Heaton Cooper: After sunset, Grasmere

 

In fact when you reach the summit you’ll see that there are two “lions”, each with a lamb, guarding each end of the summit ridge, as the guidebook writer Wainwright says “as though set there by architectural design”. The whole summit is a weird and fantastical place to visit, especially in mist.

 

It’s a small fell, just 1299 ft, but its sides are steep and craggy, and it looks like a majestic solo mountain from below. Once up there you realise it’s merely the end of a ridge enclosing Far Easedale

The path is clear all the way, but it’s steep and rocky, and we would never advise that anyone should go out onto the fells without a map and compass….if nothing else, the identification of the hills all around will only add to your enjoyment. Take extra layers too, especially waterproofs, ready for possible wind and rain.

No one summed up the appreciation of walking into the hills better than William Heaton Cooper. In the Introduction to his book,  The Hills of Lakeland he wrote:

“Man….lives on the lower ground where his food and shelter are easier to obtain, but his eyes stray often to the hills, till they become linked up in his mind with the thought of freedom and salvation from the difficult business of living in a world where other men and women live. Alone, on them, he can lose himself in astonishment at the purpose and reason behind the interplay of sky and water and rock, things which obey completely the laws that govern them. He has escaped from himself for a time and is refreshed with the comfort of being no longer a lonely child, but at one with his surroundings.”

From the village, take the road at the side of Mathilde’s, until you reach the entrance to the Lancrigg Hotel, through whose grounds lies a public path to the foot  of the mountain. The magic begins here, among the trees, the autumn berries, the tiny rocky outcrops with their inscriptions….including, in Latin, the Dorothy Wordsworth Memorial, which marks the spot where she would sit and write the words her brother was dictating to her while he walked nearby.

Look out for a tiny wooden door that some wizard has carved at the foot of a tree.

The path has been re-routed in recent years because of erosion to the original route. It winds rockily through trees, then stumps of trees, and then climbs above the trees to take you to a fascinating summit.

It’s a three-mile round trip from Grasmere, but allow 2 to 3 hours for the walk, longer if you decide to continue along the ridge to Gibson Knott and a descent via Far Easedale…for which you WILL need a map, and the advice of Wainwright in the Central Fells.

Far Easedale

 

Photos by Eve Duca

 

A walk from the shores of Swan Lake

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.

 

Elterwater
Elterwater, and the Langdale Pikes, by William Heaton Cooper

A lovely village with a lovely small lake of the same name, and that name means Swan Lake. We’re talking about Elterwater, one of the prettiest places in the whole of the Lake District, even if you’re not likely to see any swans now.

It holds a special place in our family heritage, loved by both Alfred and William Heaton Cooper. Alfred would take all four children with him when he went painting there, and William recalled: “I remember going to Elterwater Common because my father sat there for hours and hours and we knew that we were free to just enjoy ourselves, and we footled round exploring the little streams and pools, and finding creatures, water beetles and things….We were never allowed to interrupt father to show him the things we had found. He would forget all about us – absolutely right of course!”*

Our walk today starts at the village and is a circular tour with a stop for brunch, lunch or afternoon tea at Mathilde’s in Grasmere at the halfway stage. Elterwater is a delight, a picture postcard village dominated by the famous Britannia Inn, but also the home of our favourite independent hostel, if you and your family are looking for great budget accommodation.

You can park free in a small quarry by turning north at the crossroads, and from here, walk a little way up the steep and winding road, past the Wayside Pulpit, before cutting up to your left on a well trodden path that leads past the High Close electricity switch station….it looks like a sheepfold from a distance.

The path is quite steep, and when we last went up here, it was a mini-stream after the torrential rainfall of Storm Callum. Otherwise, just a couple of days later, all was calm and bright; the Lake District is a very forgiving landscape.

Head towards a gate in a wall from where you will have a wonderful view of Stone Arthur, Great Rigg and Seat Sandal, the fells across the valley. Don’t go through the gate but follow the path that hugs the wall, to a kissing gate; go through that and follow the path that contours downwards to a gate in a barbed wire fence.

Almost immediately, there’s a sharp left turn down a grassy path which brings you to the road at the 25% gradient sign. But don’t use the road; take a very sharp turn left on a signed footpath which leads into Red Bank wood.

Red Bank Wood

The path meanders through beautiful woodland, past a small wooden bench with a gorgeous view across the lake below you. Eventually you go through a metal gate and bear right downhill, first on a stony track which becomes a tarmac lane at a house called Hunting Stile. This meets the main road down which you will walk to the village centre in time for coffee, cake or lunch at Mathilde’s.

The return starts back up this same hill, Red Bank Road, and it’s possible just to retrace your steps. But a lovely alternative goes via the arboretum at High Close; even so, take the footpath back through Red Bank wood rather than walking all the way on the road.

You’ll return to the road at the gradient warning sign. Shortly after, the road forks, and immediately beyond the lower fork is a footpath on your right into the arboretum grounds. This is a stunning 11 acre estate full of trees and shrubs imported from all over the world.

Originally planted in 1866 by Edward Wheatley-Balme, a Yorkshire merchant and philanthropist, High Close was designed in the fashion of the day using many of the recently discovered ‘exotic’ conifers and evergreen shrubs coming into Britain from America.

The exposed location of the garden meant that some of the larger trees were lost in winter storms of 1973 and 1983, but there are still many fine specimens including Douglas firs, sitka spruce and redwoods.

A number of paths lead through the trees; a lower path will take you through Low Wood, a higher one close to the YHA hostel at High Close. All bring you back on the winding road back down to Elterwater.

 

*Jane Renouf: Alfred Heaton Cooper, Painter of Landscape

There and back again

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.

There are many wonderful circular and horseshoe walks in the Lake District, but no disgrace in going out and back the same way. The route covered might be the same, but turning around is to head into an entirely new world, with views that are completely different.

And nowhere in the Lakes illustrates this better than on the charming and atmospheric climb to Easedale Tarn. This dramatic sheet of water lies in a glacial corrie, overshadowed by higher fells but well worth a pilgrimage of its own.

The way up is dominated by the striking white gash of Sour Milk Gill cutting through the hillside; the return offers a panorama of exquisite loveliness, the valley dropping below Helm Crag to the vale and village of Grasmere.

It was a particular favourite of William Heaton Cooper who wrote that “the tarn and its combe look best on days of hazy sunshine, when the atmosphere can give a feeling of distance to the surrounding crags that, on a clear day, seem to enclose and almost overpower this mountain corrie.”

 

The tarn itself is shaped rather like a figure 8, and William describes it in detail: ““Besides the numerous bogs that drain into it, the tarn has four inlet streams, the main one coming down from below the great bands of rock that form the south wall of High Raise…this is the stream in the foreground of my painting.”

It’s now favoured by adventure swimmers who are sometimes seen heading up the valley for a sunrise dip, but in William’s time there were many fish in the tarn: “The standing rock at the end of a promontory is a distinctive feature, where sometimes a cormorant will settle between its meals of trout, perch or eels.

“How did the fish get there….? As a boy I remember seeing Fred Gould, the postmaster at Waterhead, going along on his tall green bicycle that carried, in its frame, a canvas bag in which were canisters full of baby trout.”*

To get to this fabled tarn, walk up the narrow road at the side of the Heaton Cooper Studio, past the youth hostels until you reach a signpost (just before the Lancrigg Hotel). Cross two stone bridges and then take the meticulously engineered path, through a gate and over another, wide, stone bridge, then take the left fork. The beck, and eventually the waterfall, will be on your right.

The route climbs gently at first, with only a few steeper sections, and a sense of mounting anticipation as several plateaus prove to be dry, before finally reaching the tarn itself. Those with a thirst for further adventure can climb on, to Tarn Crag or Sergeant Man. Otherwise, it’s time to turn round and see that other world of the return journey.

There IS another path on the opposite side of the waterfall, reached by some stepping stones at the end of the tarn, and it does lead back to the valley eventually, but it can be very muddy and boggy in places. Go ahead, if you don’t mind wet feet, or just turn round and retrace your steps, enjoying the outline of the high fells and, in particular, an unusual view of the “lion and lamb” rocks on the summit of Helm Crag.

The walk is about 9k from the centre of Grasmere, and will take between two and three hours, depending on how many times you stop to take photos. A perfect morning followed by lunch at Mathildes, of course.

* William Heaton Cooper, The Tarns of Lakeland

Easedale Tarn by William Heaton Cooper

 

 

Lake that inspired artists and poets

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.

In the autumn, when the crowds are thinning out, and the trees are too, the Lake District is at its most magnificent. And we are so lucky to have on our doorstep two of the loveliest lakes, Grasmere and Rydal.

This walk takes you along both of them, but we want to concentrate this time on delightful Rydal Water, which inspired our family of artists over several generations, but also provided inspiration for William Wordsworth.

The poet lived here in Grasmere at two houses which are now tourist attractions – Dove Cottage and Allan Bank – but he spent most of his life at Rydal Mount, a bright and airy home in beautiful gardens which lies beyond the south end of the lake. He could see the water from his sitting room window; you can visit there, too. http://www.rydalmount.co.uk/

But today you’re heading out for a brisk walk. It’s around six miles, and while the scenery is stunning and the landscape typical of the very best of the Lake District, there are no serious hills to climb, and no chance of getting lost in the autumn mist. And your destination is something spectacular and rather magical: a huge cave in a mountainside.

Follow the road out of Grasmere for almost a mile and take the second footpath sign on the left, which will take you into Deerbolts wood. Keep to the upper path which will bring you onto Loughrigg terrace, named after the fell that rises on your right. You might be tempted or distracted to go higher and climb to its summit; please go ahead! But staying on the route is a beautiful path  which offers easy walking underfoot with views down to Rydal Water.

Rydal Water is one of the smallest lakes at 3/4 mile long, 1/4 mile wide and with a depth of 55 feet, and because of those gentle statistics and a quiet air, it’s loved by open water swimmers. The see it as a little gem because there are no boats, the water quality is excellent, and  though you’re surrounded by trees, Cumbrian stone walls and moorland, swimmers never feel too exposed.

Rydal, as seen by William Heaton Cooper and, below, by Alfred Heaton Cooper

As you head towards the foot of the lake, the path takes you to the entrance of Rydal cave, a huge cavern which was once a slate quarry. It’s safe to go inside, following the stepping stones. In fact, Wainwright claims that “there is shelter enough here for the whole population of Ambleside, although admittedly many people would be standing in water”.

There’s a tradition now, each winter, to sing carols inside the cave, and last year’s event saw a huge crowd – not QUITE the whole of Ambleside – gathered inside with candles and torches, singing around a camp fire.

You will probably have the place to yourself – and several hundred tiny fish – at this time of year, so please, sing your heart out!

The return journey takes a path dropping down to the lake shore, which you follow to the river joining Rydal to Grasmere, and then along the side of Grasmere via Penny Rock Wood to the short climb back up to the road. Turn right down the hill and start to dream of tea and scones, or coffee and cake, back here at Mathildes.

Rydal cave

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.

 

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.