Staithes and its painters, North Yorkshire


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Staithes and its painters, North Yorkshire

It is inevitable, if a little unfair, to compare the artistic hub that was Staithes at the end of the nineteenth century and start of the twentieth with St Ives and Newlyn . Both fishing villages became more accessible thanks to the coming of the railway – in Staithes this was in 1883, six years later than St Ives. Both offered low cost accommodation, and both above all had that combination of picturesque scenery and magnificent seascapes that provided perfect material for plein air painting. The Jurassic cliffs and the often wild North Sea provided the Staithes painters with drama for their pictures a hundred years ago as they do for today’s visitors. The village is a hidden enclave still offering escape from the rest of the world.
Long before its heyday Staithes had been artistically productive, indeed the so-called Turner of the North, George Weatherill, was born there in 1810, dying in 1890 as the place became a thriving colony of artists.
The wonderful little harbour at Staithes was one of the causes of the artistic boom – its restricted size meant economic decline in the age of steam, thus making the income from the arriving artists – a number fluctuating between 20 and 30 – all the more welcome; and of course it was a wonderful subject to paint.
The cottages the artists rented or roomed at are still there to be admired, facing directly onto the steep and narrow streets that as at St Ives offered intriguing studies in perspective to blossoming artists.
A first wave of artists arrived even before the railway, the likes of Mark Senior, Gilbert Foster, and Fred Jackson. The second wave came after the railway, including Hannah Hoyland, Isa Jobling (female artists for whatever reason are prominent in the Staithes School), and Henry Hopwood; and then at the end of the century its most famous name visited and soon made her home there – Laura Johnson who was eventually Dame Laura Knight (another link with St Ives, where she later moved), whose watercolour landscape skills were honed in Staithes.
The Fishermen’s Institute in Staithes provided a makeshift gallery for the initial exhibitions of the artists working in the settlement once they had formed The Staithes Art Club in 1901, sharing their home but also a view of art and largely an adherence to the impressionist style that suited the northern light there.
Laura Knight moved elsewhere as the Staithes artistic scene broke up in 1907, later writing: “I hated leaving the moorland and the North Sea, the struggle that made you strong.” The artistic heritage of the place was not ended then, however, and Staithes Gallery still provides a space to display art and tuition to those seeking to improve their skills in the same setting that their predecessors of a century ago so loved.

3 Responses to Staithes and its painters

From Rosamund Jordan on 15th February 2010
Why does this article say it is unfair to compare the Staithes colony of artists with those at St. Ives and Newlyn? It is not true that a number of artists worked from Staithes before the railway came. It's probable that Thomas Barratt did, but there is no evidence of the other artists mentioned painting in the area before the advent of the railway. There is no mention of my husband's and my connection with Staithes and it's former colony of artists. We are leading dealers in their work, dividing our time between our cottage in Staithes and house near Yarm in Teesside. We hold regular exhibitions of the Group's work in Staithes itself, and also in Whitby and Harrogate. We have Study Days and hold lectures on the Group in the village and elsewhere. I am a NADFAS lecturer on the subject. Our website is and I would welcome a link to it.

From Rosamund Jordan on 12th January 2010
Important omission!Tom and Rosamund Jordan, who divide their time between Staithes and Teesside, are leading experts and dealers in the work of the Staithes Group, regularly holding exhibitions, study days and giving lectures on the subject in the village. Rosamund is a NADFAS lecturer.

From Rosamund Jordan on 2nd July 2009
It‚s good to see the Staithes Group featured. None of the artists ˆ with the possible exception of Thomas Barrett ˆ came to Staithes before the railway in 1883. Laura Knight (née Johnson), Hannah Hoyland (eloped from Staithes to become Mrs. Fred Mayor) and Isa Jobling (née Thompson) were the only female members of the Group, plus Florence Hess who came to the area as the group was beginning to dissolve. Laura and Harold Knight moved to Newlyn, not St. Ives. My husband and myself run study days on the Group in the village and I am a NADFAS lecturer on the subject. We divide our time between Teesside and Staithes and are specialist dealers in Staithes Group paintings as T.B. & R. Jordan Our website is Rosamund Jordan

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