The Walberswick Enigma - Artists Inspired by the Blyth Estuary
Walberswick and the Blyth Valley have attracted artists for nearly two centuries. The visits of PHILIP WILSON STEER and CHARLES RENNIE MACKINTOSH are now common knowledge, but a great many other major artists worked in the area.
Blythburgh, too, had its artist residents: ERNEST CROFTS RA, SIR JOHN SEYMOUR LUCAS RA, and WILLIAM BENNER all had homes in the village.
In the early nineteenth century CORNELIUS VARLEY and PETER DE WINT, both prominent water-colourists, made studies of Walberswick church, while in the 1860s and 1870s CHARLES KEENE, very highly regarded in his day, produced drawings and etchings of riverside subjects.
The mid–1880s saw a substantial influx of young artists, mainly Paris-trained, who later became very prominent: many had also spent time in the burgeoning artist colonies in Brittany and Cornwall. Perhaps the best–known of the ‘new wave’ was Steer, but other notable visitors of the period included FREDERICK BROWN, Slade Professor for many years; SIR FRANK SHORT, Head of the School of Engraving at the RCA, and the Irish Academicians WALTER OSBORNE, NATHANIEL HILL and AUGUSTUS BURKE.
Blythburgh Society - The History Notes: The Walberswick Enigma. Artists inspired by the Blyth Estuary
Between the wars the arrival of distinguished artists continued unabated. These included Royal Academicians SIR ARNESBY BROWN, SIR GEORGE CLAUSEN, R. O. DUNLOP and BERTRAM PRIESTMAN. More permanently domiciled in the village were W. F. CRITTALL, ALLAN DAVIDSON and TOM VAN OSS.
Since World War 2, artists with homes in Walberswick have included CLIFFORD RUSSELL, ERIC SCOTT, CHRIS and WENDY SINCLAIR, SIDNEY SEYMOUR LUCAS and WILLIAM BOWYER RA, while visitors have included BERNARD DUNSTAN RA, SIR WILLIAM COLDSTREAM and F. W. BALDWIN. These are merely the tip of a huge iceberg - the list seems endless.
The attraction defies clear analysis, but must involve elemental considerations: water, air, light and space, combined with a compellingly haunting atmosphere.
R. R. Scott, Walberswick, October 1995.
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