Exhibit: John Bowman’s view of summer meadow

(c) Pannett Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) Pannett Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Born in 1872, John Bowman lived for much of his earlier years in the Nottingham area.

In 1887 he became a part time student at Nottingham School of Art where he continued to study until about 1898.

This meant he was a contemporary of Harold Knight and Harold’s future wife, Laura Johnson, who were also members of the Staithes Group of Artists.

In 1903 John moved to Sandsend and this is when he became a member of the Staithes Group. When the Staithes Group of Artists disbanded, he moved south, ending up in Elstree, Hertfordshire.

As well as exhibiting in Nottingham and Whitby, John exhibited at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, the Royal Institute of Oil Painting and the Royal Academy.

Little is known about John but his love of French Impressionism is clear in this landscape.

The colour palette is kept quite simple and the perspective draws your eye towards the left of the painting.

The meadow has a random burst of colour in the foreground, which could be foxgloves.

In the background the trees lead your eye to a white space, which seems to merge into the sky.

It could be meadow sweet but it suggests a lightness and sings of summer pastoral scenes.

The advent of the railway in 1883 brought more painters into the Staithes and Ruswick Bay.

John would have been part of the Staithes Group.

For the next 15 years Staithes, along with Newlyn, played host to artists of international stature and witnessed the move from realism to impressionism.

The period from 1901 to 1907 was the most productive and coincided with the formation of the Staithes Art Club.

Prior to 1901, artists of the Staithes Group had exhibited with the Yorkshire Union of Artists; this had been formed in 1887 and both Ernest Rigg and Rowland Hill had been elected to the council of the Union. In 1901 the Staithes Group broke away from the Yorkshire Union of Artists and decided to hold their own exhibition at the Fishermen’s Institute in Staithes.

No records have survived of this first exhibition and no critique was offered by the Whitby Gazette.

However, it was sufficiently successful for a committee to be formed charged with organising the 1902 exhibition to be held at the Fishermen’s Institute in August.

The committee elected Silkstone Hopwood as chairman and Richard Bagshawe as secretary. Also present were Thomas Barrett, John Bowman, Ernest Dade, Arthur Friedenson, Rowland Hill, Hannah Hoyland, Spence Ingall, Fred Jackson, Isa Jobling, Laura Johnson, Harold Knight, Charles Hodge Mackie, Frank Mason, Fred Mayor, Ernest Rigg, Albert Stevens and Mark Senior.

The 1902 exhibition was a success and this time the Whitby Gazette published a comprehensive review. An entrance fee was levied and the proceeds given to the Fishermen’s Institute.

The 1903 exhibition was also held at Staithes, but in 1904 the exhibition moved to the Anderson Gallery in Whitby as it had outgrown the Fishermen’s Institute. Edward Anderson had been elected a member of the Staithes Art Club in 1904 and the gallery in Whitby belonged to his father. This was to be the last independent exhibition; from 1905 until the Staithes Art Club disbanded in 1907, the exhibitions were absorbed into the annual exhibitions of the Yorkshire Union of Artists.

The success of the Staithes Group led to it own demise. There was no location large enough to handle the increasing number of canvases and exhibitions in August clashed with the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy.

During this period the artists had been accepted by the fisherfolk of Staithes and had been absorbed into the fabric of the village.

Living in Sandsend, John would have escaped the industrialisation of Victorian England that all of the Staithes Group fled.

Getting back to nature and capturing life in a rural seaside village established the artists as an important movement.

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