Sunday 21 February 2010



Gilbert Foster, Fred Jackson and Mark Senior had been painting in Staithes from about 1880. The group that formed around them became known as The Staithes Group. Despite the lack of a strong leading figure, such as Stanhope Forbes at the artists' colony in Newlyn, the Staithes artists held a strong belief that art should not be shackled by the rigid conformity of the establishment. Indeed they split from the Yorkshire Union of Artists and held their own independent exhibition for the first time in 1901 at the Fishermen's Institute in Staithes.

Frederick William Jackson is often falsely referred to as an English impressionist. Many of the Staithes painters had studied on the continent and the influence of impressionism can certainly be seen in their work, but it never hides an underlying draughtsmanship and a solidity of form. They never fully submerged themselves in its essential spirit.

The French painter Bastien Lepage belonged to group of watered down impressionists known as Juste Milieu (Middle of the Road). Leplage was a huge influence on Fred Jackson, particularly with the idea of 'plein air' painting.

Fred Jackson and Laura Knight on the beach at Staithes

Artists painting in the open air is a common sight in Whitby and the surrounding area these days, but when the impressionists first took their paints and easels outside to capture, for instance, the changing quality of sunlight at different times of the day, it was quite revolutionary.

Plein air painting also became the fashion in the artists' colony at Newlyn in sunny Cornwall. The Staithes painters however had to cope with all the bad weather the North Sea could throw at them. Their dedication to plein air often took its toll. John William Howey, for instance, died in Hartlepool in 1938 from typhus caught by drinking contaminated water whilst painting en plein air.

Horse drawn Sled in the snow by F. W. Jackson

In 1914 Fred Jackson visited Russia where, despite the freezing weather he continued to paint outdoors. Many consider these paintings to be his most vibrant and innovative.

The artist Laura Knight said this of Jackson in her autobiography:
'He painted out of doors in any weather. Under the mittens he wore, his hands were swollen, stiff and chapped, as were the edges of his ears and the wings of his nostrils.'

Fisherfolk at Runswick by F. W. Jackson

Fisherwomen by the Quay at Staithes by F. W. Jackson

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