Drawn to the area - 26 artists who took inspiration from East Anglia
PUBLISHED: 10:00 02 August 2020
Dave King Photography
East Anglia has an amazing artistic heritage. As well as all the sculptors, painters, print-makers and more who have been born here or made their homes here, many more have been inspired by holidays on the Norfolk or Suffolk coast.
Here are just 26 of the many talented artists, both past and present, linked with the region - but there are countless more to discover.
John Constable: It’s impossible to wander through the area known as Constable Country without thinking of the artist’s famous paintings. Born in East Bergholt in 1776, he spent his early years exploring the Suffolk and Essex countryside, His most famous painting, The Hay Wain, shows the River Stour and Willy Lott’s Cottage, while his other masterpieces include Flatford Mill, Wivenhoe Park and Dedham Vale. The largest collection of his paintings outside of London is housed at Ipswich’s Christchurch Mansion. You can also retrace Constable’s steps by walking or cycling along the Painter’s Trail, a 69-mile route along the river Stour.
Thomas Gainsborough: Famed for both his portraits and landscapes, Gainsborough is known as one of the most important British 18th-century artists. His most famous works include works such Mr and Mrs Andrews, The Blue Boy and The Morning Walk. Gainsborough’s House in Sudbury, the museum in the building where he was born in 1727, is currently closed for a £9million development project - and some of the paintings have been loaned for a Russian exhibition of his work at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow.
John Crome: The son of a weaver. Crome was famously one of the founding members of the Norwich School of Painters, the first provincial art movement in Britain. He was born in Norwich in 1768 and spent most of his life in Norfolk, painting hundreds of landscapes featuring local scenes, especially the River Wensum and Great Yarmouth. Crome’s Broad in the Broads National Park is named after him, and Norwich Castle Museum, which is currently closed, has many of his paintings in its collection. Two of Crome’s sons, John Berney and William Henry, were also fine painters.
John Sell Cotman: Cotman’s atmospheric landscapes might appeal to us now - but Norwich Castle curator Giorgia Bottinelli has told how he was once regarded as “too colourful”, and did not achieve fame in his lifetime. Another leading member of the Norwich School, Cotman was born in the city in 1782 and spent much of his life in Norwich and Great Yarmouth, although he lived in London as a young man. The Eel Boat by John Sell Cotman will feature in the exhibition Where Land and Water Meet: Norfolk’s Rivers, Streams, Brooks and Broads, at Norwich Castle when it reopens. A preview of the exhibition can be seen on the Art UK website.
Sir Alfred Munnings: Munnings was known as one of Britain’s finest painters of horses. He had links all over the region, as he was born in Mendham, just over the Suffolk border from Harleston in Norfolk, in 1878, and attended Framlingham College before being apprenticed to a Norwich printer. He later lived at Castle House at Dedham in Essex, in the heart of Constable Country, which is now a museum displaying many of his works. The Munnings Art Museum is currently closed because of coronavirus restrictions, but hopes to reopen soon.
Frederick and Emma Sandys: Born in Norwich in 1829, Frederick Sandys was a member of the Pre-Raphaelites, and created striking portraits of women with Titian-style hair. Some of these were on mythological themes, such as Medea and Helen of Troy. He was at one time a close friend of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, though they later fell out. Frederick’s sister, Emma Sandys, born in 1843, was also an artist influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite group, and stayed at home in Norwich when her brother went to London. Sadly, she died aged 34. Norwich Castle Museum’s collection includes paintings by both Frederick and Emma.
Edward Seago: One of the leading landscape artists of the 20th century, Edward Seago was a friend of the Royal family and inspired both the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales to paint. He was born in Norwich in 1910 and, although he travelled all widely, his home was always in Norfolk and the county’s landscapes form a major part of his work. He also studied horses and spent time travelling with circus people. His exhibitions in London regularly sold out within minutes, a testament to his huge popularity. The Queen Mother bought many of his paintings and he also presented many of his works to the Royals, so the Queen now has what is probably the largest collection of his paintings.
Edward Ardizzone: The artist and children’s illustrator, born in 1900, lived in Ipswich as a child, and was educated at Ipswich School. He was responsible for more than 20 children’s books, including the Tim series, and won the British Library Association’s Kate Greenaway medal for illustration with 1956’s Tim All Alone. Ardizzone used scenes at Ipswich docks in his illustrations, and a blue plaque in his honour was put up on Ipswich Waterfront in 2015, saying that the artist “gained inspiration here”.
Lucien Freud: One of the most famous artists of the 20th century, Lucien Freud’s links with Suffolk hit the headlines a couple of years ago. There was excitement when a rare landscape of his was discovered hidden under a painting by a Suffolk pub sign artist, Tom Wright. A member of the famous Freud family, Lucian was born in Berlin in 1922. He was one of the first students at the avant-garde East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing created by Sir Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines, first in Dedham and then at Benton End, Hadleigh. The pair were also the mentors of other artists including, later on, a teenage Maggi Hambling.
Maggi Hambling: East Anglian art icon Maggi Hambling has been associated with the area all her life. She was born in Sudbury in 1945 and has a studio in north Suffolk. Her most recent works include a portrait of Sir Andy Murray, who visited her Suffolk studio to pose for her. Maggi Hambling’s works have often taken inspiration from the area, including her tempestuous Wall of Water sea paintings, which were created as a result of her walks along shingle and cliff tops between Aldeburgh and Southwold. Of course, her most celebrated - and criticised - creation in East Anglia is the famous Scallop sculpture at Aldeburgh, her sculptural tribute to composer Benjamin Britten.
Carl Giles: The “Grandma” statue on Giles Circus in Ipswich is a testament to the love felt locally for the artist, who was voted ‘Britain’s favourite cartoonist of the 20th Century’ in 2000, five years after his death. Born in London in 1916, Giles moved to Suffolk just after the Second World War, and lived at Tuddenham, just outside Ipswich. His characters were adored by millions, and the New Wolsey Theatre even staged a musical in his honour, Grandma Saves the Day, based on the Giles Family.
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Kieron Williamson: Kieron, born in Norfolk in 2002, is by far the youngest artist in this list. He was nicknamed “Mini Monet” when he produced beautiful landscapes at the age of six - but is now about to turn 18 and is a full-time professional artist. He has just unveiled an exhibition, The Next Chapter, at The Gallery in his home town, Holt, where it will be on show until August 4. Kieron now lives in Cornwall with his family, but has a home in Ludham which he often visits for artistic inspiration.
Beatrix Potter: The much-loved Peter Rabbit author and illustrator, who was born in 1866, often visited Suffolk, as a cousin of Ethel, Lady Hyde Parker, who lived at Melford Hall. She used to bring her small animals with her on her visits, much to the delight of the children, who were excited to see her arriving with creatures such as mice and porcupines. Now owned by the National Trust, the hall has a Beatrix Potter room displaying some of her artworks, as well as a model of Jemima Puddle Duck which she gave to the Hyde-Parker children. Never before seen drawings by her were discovered during a spring clean in 2016. Melford Hall has not yet reopened to the public.
Grayson Perry: Born in Chelmsford in 1960, this Turner Prize-winning artist celebrated his home county with his unique creation, A House for Essex, at Wrabness. The house is an artwork in its own right and also contains a number of works by Perry, exploring the life of fictional character Julie Cope. People can only stay there if they win a ballot to book a two-night stay, but the booking is not currently open.
Dame Elisabeth Frink: One of the most acclaimed sculptors of the 20th century, Frink was born in Great Thurlow, near Bury St Edmunds, in 1930 and spent her formative years in East Anglia during the Second World War. An exhibition of her work at the Sainsbury Centre in 2018-19 brought together 130 of her works, lookeing at her radical and bohemian beginnings in 1950s London and examining her major themes, including the relationship between humans and animals. She died in 1993.
Sir Antony Gormley: The world-famous creator of the Angel of the North in Gateshead and Another Place on Crosby Beach in Liverpool, Gormley has his studio at High House near Swaffham, after moving there in 2010. His works are also included in the Sculpture Park at the UEA’s Sainsbury Centre. Born in London in 1950, the sculptor is a former winner of the Turner Prize, and last year the Royal Academy held an exhibition filling its 13 main galleries with his works. He recently posted on the Kettle’s Yard gallery’s website about how he has been working in his Norfolk studio during lockdown, with glimpses of some of the works he is currently creating.
Colin Self: Celebrated pop artist Colin Self was born in 1941 in Rackheath and lives and works in Norwich. At Slade School of Fine Art, he was encouraged by Peter Blake and David Hockney. Cold War politics have been a major theme in his work, and, following a trip to the US in 1965, he created drawings featuring nuclear fall-out shelters and Art Deco cinema interiors, as well as hot dogs. But his etchings also cover a huge range of other themes, and he has also created many Norfolk landscapes and still lifes. He was one of the Norfolk artists, alongside Anthony Gormley, whose work featured in a new Norwich City of Sanctuary art trail created earlier this year in aid of refugees and asylum seekers.
Anna Airy: Anna Airy, who lived from 1882-1964, was one of the first women to be officially commissioned as a war artist. She painted at munitiions factories during the First World War in often difficult conditions. She was born in Greenwich and trained at the Slade in London, but moved to Playford near Ipswich in 1933 and lived there for the rest of her life. She was president of the Ipswich Art Society, which holds an Anna Airy award and exhibition, featuring work by young people, in her memory.
John Craske: Interest has been growing over recent years in the folk art, including embroidered seascapes, created by this fisherman turned artist. Born in Sheringham in 1881, John Craske also lived in Blakeney and Hemsby. He was invalided out of the First World War and spent time in an asylum, and continued to suffer from ill health. Craske began to paint sea scenes on anything he could find, then turned to embroidery, after being taught by his wife Laura, because he could stitch while lying down. Some of Craske’s embroideries and other artworks, including a painting on the lid of a ‘bait box’, are in the collection at Sheringham Museum, which has not yet reopened.
Sybil Andrews: A school in Bury St Edmunds, Sybil Andrews Academy, takes its name from this inspirational printmaker - and students took part in the celebrations for the 120th anniversary of her birth two years ago. Sybil Andrews, was born in Bury in 1898, and found success as an artist in the 1930s after a chance meeting with fellow artist Cyril Power in the town. The two collaborated for a number of years on innovative works under the pseudonym of Andrew Power. The school has called for the artist to have a higher profile in the town, and holds an annual Sybil Andrews day on her birthday, April 19.
Joseph Stannard: Marine and landscape artist Stannard only lived to be 33, sadly succumbing to tuberculosis - but during his short life he became known as one of the leading members of the Norwich School of Painters. Born in Norwich in 1797, he was already exhibiting as a teenager. He painted mainly landscapes of coastal and river scenes and took inspiration from the Dutch Old Masters. The Stannard family also included several other acclaimed artists, including Joseph’s younger brother, Alfred, wife, Emily Coppin Stannard, their daughter Emily Stannard and their niece Eliose Harriest Stannard.
Emily Coppin Stannard: Known as one of the finest still life painters of the 19th century, Emily Coppin travelled to the Netherlands with her father as a teenager to study the work of the Dutch masters. She was born in Norwich in 1802, and carried on painting for 50 years after the death of her husband, Joseph Stannard. The largest collection of her works is held at Norwich Castle.
Sean Hedges-Quinn: The sculptor was born in Ipswich in 1968 and works from a studio near Stowmarket. He is famed for his many striking statues, including the Captain Mainwaring bronze statue in Thetford, and the figures of Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson, which both stand at Portman Road. “Coach” has now created a new statue of Town’s greatest-ever player, Kevin Beattie, which has still to be unveiled due to the coronavirus restrictions. Money was raised through the £110,000 Beat Goes On appeal - a joint initiative between the EADT/Ipswich Star, BBC Radio Suffolk and the TWTD website. As well as his statues, he has also worked in the film industry.
Leonard Squirrell: Born in Ipswich in 1893, Squirrell spent most of his life in the town and is one of the best-loved artists from the area, known for his water-colours, pastels and etchings. He produced railway posters, and images for many commercial companies.
Bernard Reynolds: The famous sculptor was born in Norwich in 1915 and lived in Ipswich for nearly 50 years. He created many pieces of public sculpture in Ipswich, the most famous being The Ship outside the Civic Centre and the pylons outside the former Suffolk College. Other public works included cement reliefs on the Castle Hill and Sprites Lane schools, a stone relief on the Eastern Counties Farmers Head Office in Princes Street and a 24ft stained-glass window in St Matthew’s School. A major retrospective of his work was held on Ipswich Waterfront in 2015.
Have we missed out your favourite artist? Which artwork in the area is your favourite? Send us an email.
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