Artists in Berwick

Artists in Berwick - Inspiration and Celebration

For three centuries, the area round Berwick-upon-Tweed has inspired artists to produce memorable images. Around 150 have been identified as having links with the town and its hinterland. This book highlights and celebrates examples of those artists, their images, and the inspiration behind them, making the case for Berwick to be accorded an important place in the history of British painting.

There are a number of locations in Britain which are almost certain to feature when we look at art, particularly landscape art. Some seem so obvious that we perhaps take them for granted – it would for example be difficult to imagine a compendium of landscapes without significant representation of the Scottish Highlands. Others may have such strong perceived links with a particular artist that they become, in a sense, almost inseparable – rural Suffolk with Constable is a fairly obvious example, Salford and other south Lancashire towns with Lowry another.

Berwick-upon-Tweed does not spring readily to mind when considering such a list. But, probably, it should. For artists throughout the ages have clearly found inspiration in and around Berwick. Its geography – as an estuarial settlement, with spectacular beaches, hills, and rivers close by – and its strategic and historical significance – a Border town, enclosed by its Edwardian and, later, Elizabethan ramparts, and containing a wealth of notable buildings – have combined to make it a special place. It has a hinterland, full of dramatic castles, huge abbeys, battle sites, plus all the associated myths and legends that tend to accompany such features. Its relevance to early Christian history (think St Aidan, St Cuthbert, the Lindisfarne Gospels) endows it with a cultural significance that stretches back far beyond any post-Renaissance flowering. And its economic heyday (admittedly now long gone), as one of the principal east-coast ports in Britain, contributed along with geography and culture to the build-up of a heritage arguably as rich and as varied as that of other towns and cities many times its size.

So it is perhaps scarcely surprising that, once artists began to travel in search of subjects for their work, the Berwick area provided, and continues to provide, an abundance of such subjects. Some of those who came, saw, and painted were national or indeed international figures – for example, Turner, Mackintosh, and Lowry. Others have been, as it were, home-grown, such as Thomas Sword Good, Fred Stott and Frank Wood, but have left their mark on a wider canvas.

In the course of the research for this book, 153 notable artists were identified with demonstrable links to Berwick. Clearly, to research and do justice to such a cohort was a major undertaking, and the Berwick Preservation Trust was fortunate to have the services of the art historian and conservator Edwin Bowes, author of Lowry in Berwick (2002), who had done much of the work for the Trust’s Lowry Trail and who brought to this new project the same combination of enthusiasm and expertise.