Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Andrew Liddle
Guest Writer
1:00 AM 20th March 2024

Looking Forward To Looking Back At The Bingley Gallery

Andrew Liddle talks to David Starley about his latest exhibition of local artists from the past

David Starley
David Starley
Acclaimed Yorkshire artists like Joe Pighills, Percy Monkman and Tom Clifton Butterfield will be among the 30 local artists from the past whose work will be on view at The Bingley Gallery. As Bradford gears up for next year when it officially becomes - what locals have always known - a City of Culture, it is fitting that the rich artistic heritage of the district is already being showcased.

Gerald Parkinson b.Shipley 1926 GP01 'Coaling Wharves, Grimsby' Oil on Board 1961 36x24in framed to39x27in £320
Gerald Parkinson b.Shipley 1926 GP01 'Coaling Wharves, Grimsby' Oil on Board 1961 36x24in framed to39x27in £320
The exhibition entitled Looking Back: Earlier Artists of The Bradford District has been mounted by the gallery’s owner, David Starley, a fine artist in his own right, whose wonderfully impressionistic painting of the Aire Valley are widely admired.

David is looking forward to Bradford coming under the spotlight next year. “Whilst David Hockney remains a central figure,” he says, “ the ‘city of culture’ status will allow other past, established and emerging artists, from all branches of the arts, the chance to become better recognised.” He’s keen to point out that the title actually extends to all parts of the Metropolitan district, including towns such as Ilkley, Keighley and Bingley, all of which have, he believes, their own distinct artistic identity.

Arthur Craven 1934-2013 ACR05 'Barns in Botany Lane,Arncliffe, Littondale' watercolour 34x24cm framed to 50x38cm £150
Arthur Craven 1934-2013 ACR05 'Barns in Botany Lane,Arncliffe, Littondale' watercolour 34x24cm framed to 50x38cm £150
A great admirer and promoter of local landscape artists, David is always looking to showcase the best, from a region rich in talent. “Many of the older generation of watercolourists received excellent training through local Mechanics’ Institutes and art schools,” he says, explaining the wealth of fine local artists. Whilst this is just the second show dedicated to ‘past masters’ the event is set to become a recurrent one.

On display are predominantly landscapes, many of which have changed little, where country scenes are featured. Urban scenes have obviously undergone much greater transformation. “A clay pit painted by Tom Butterfield was once a feature of Keighley but has now been filled in,” says David, with a shake of the head. “When Joe Pighills’ son, John, visited the gallery he was able to point out which of the dilapidated cottages his father painted had since been demolished.”

“They reach the gallery in all conditions,” he continues. “Some are pristine, others have clearly not been cherished, perhaps having spent years in an attic or, in one case, maybe even a coal cellar.” They often require cleaning, but as far as possible appropriate contemporary frames are kept and writing and labels on the back retained as part of the history, or provenance of the works.”

Govinder Nazran 1964-2008 GN03 'Legion' Screenprint 80 of 295 framed to 67x102cm inc frame £420
Govinder Nazran 1964-2008 GN03 'Legion' Screenprint 80 of 295 framed to 67x102cm inc frame £420
It seems that a surprisingly large number of art galleries existed in the last hundred years or so, with most towns having a couple. Edwin Riby’s prestigious gallery in Keighley employed eight people. James Hardaker’s in Bingley was one of many that combined a shop with a studio.

Comparing a Joe Pighills’ watercolour to one by a more recent Keighley artist, Arthur Craven, it is immediately noticeable how styles of painting have changed, not least on a shift towards brighter tones.

As a gallery owner, David notes that customers’ tastes have shifted over the years. Many people are better informed and it’s not uncommon for youngsters to have picked up a decent understanding of art history, whilst an older generation may fall back on a blunter ‘I know what I like’ attitude. However, one thing is clear, Yorkshire folk remain faithful to art that represents favourite places in their own region.

Other artists, such as Denise Rooum (1929-2018) and Bingley’s Myriam Burton (1907-1997)may have been going against local tastes when departing from more traditional painting styles. Burton in particular was such a frequent exhibitor at the Paris Salon that she won a silver medal, but struggled to get her work accepted for the Bradford Open exhibition.

Art Historian Colin Neville’s Not Just Hockney website and his numerous booklets provide a wealth of information on some of the featured artists . A detailed biography of Percy Monkman, who painted from his home in Baildon, has been written by his grandson, Martin Greenwood. Visits to the gallery from Gwen, the daughter of Bingley artist, James Hardaker, brought up fascinating stories not only of strong friendships between artists, but strong rivalries. John, son of Joe Pighills, provided further anecdotes such as trips onto the moors with his father.

However, there are works which remain anonymous, simply because regrettably many artists did not sign their work. A view of The Royal Oak, a pub in Shipley, which sadly no longer exists, has been lovingly if naively preserved in art. “This is more folk art than fine art,” says David, “and the passage of time has not been kind, yet the view, with men in natty suits and hats, young women with ponytails and full knee length skirts dates it somewhere in the later 1950s or early ’60s.”

For the record, artists represented in the show include: James Arundel (1875-1960), Myriam Burton (1907-1997), Gordon Clifford Barlow (1930-2005), John Butterfield (1913-97), Tom Clifton Butterfield (1856-1937), Barry Claughton (1935- ), Arthur Craven (1934-2013), James Hardaker (1901-91), Maud Raphael Jones (1863 – 1935), William Manners (1860-1942), Arthur McArthur (1828-1892), Percy Monkman (1892-1986), Govinder Nazran (1964–2008), Bill Parker (1922–2017), Gerald Parkinson (1926- ), Joseph Pighills (1902-84), Edward Renard (1854-1915), Denise Rooum (1929-2018), Wiliam Charles Rushton (1860-1921), John Sowden (1838-1926), Frances Watson Sunderland (1866-1949), William Hartley Waddington (1883-1961) and John Dobby Walker (1863-1925).

David’s devotion to the Aire Valley, which he has painted at least 150 times and, not least his dedication to local art might suggest he is locally born - in fact, he hails from the pretty Warwickshire market town of Kenilworth. Surprisingly, his background is in Metallurgy which he studied in Sheffield after leaving school, before later coming to Bradford University from which he emerged with a degree in Archaeological Sciences and a doctorate in Mediaeval Steel.

Denise Rooum 'Sisters by the Sea' DR01 1962 Gouach 84x27cm framed to 92x37cm £230
Denise Rooum 'Sisters by the Sea' DR01 1962 Gouach 84x27cm framed to 92x37cm £230
David is always ready to assert that he’s grown to love the area. ‘There's just such variety in the landscape and its moods are so changeable – from place to place and time to time- from the stark beauty of the moors to the secluded wooded valleys.” He lets that sink in. “The buildings, in locally quarried stone, are often wonderfully picturesque, whether it’s the rustic charm of those of the old vernacular architecture to the grandeur of the proud Victorian cityscapes … “

It’s a show you will not want to miss if you are an art lover or you just like to see beautifully crafted views of how your landscape looked in the past.

David Starley
David Starley
The exhibition is launched at The Bingley Gallery on the evening of 20th March (7-9pm) and will run until 28th April, 2024. For more information click here