Alfred Heaton Cooper never made much money as an artist. He walked the fells, found scenes and painted them - and then tried to sell them. What these paintings record is the Lakes at the beginning of the twentieth century.
He also used to produce paintings as illustrations for the A&C Black Guidebooks. The particular book I bought has very much been inspired by the pioneering 1906 A&C Black book "The English Lakes". It offers a unique way of looking at the landscape and social history of a region which is extremely popular with many people in the UK.
The original guidebook was an affordable way which people could have a record of Alfred's paintings without having to pay full price. At the same time they got the sort of information they needed to be able to tour the Lakes - at a time when transportation was becoming a more accessible to greater numbers.
Every painting from the original book has been rescanned and enlarged, presenting them as they have not been seen for a hundred years. Opposite each painting is a page containing full-colour images relating to the painting, from period maps and postcards to paintings and railway tickets, together with a text placing the painting in its contemporary context.As some of you may have realised from reading my Travels with a Sketchbook blog, I'm always really interested to find out more about the history and environment of the places that I visit. Consequently I find a book like this to be utterly delightful - the combination of paintings, details about locations and associate social history is, for me, an unbeatable combination.
Alfred's best work is not found in the guidebooks as inevitably these were constrained by the location of illustrations required and the printing process for books. You can look at fine prints of some of Alfred Heaton Cooper's paintings on the Heaton Cooper Art Gallery. Bear in mind he first had to get to the spot where he painted from with all his painting gear - which is quite some feat given the nature of the inclines of the fells!
Alfred had a son William Heaton Cooper (1903-1995) who also painted and who moved the family gallery business to Grasmere in 1935. He had a different style to his father and you can see some of his original works in watercolour and a larger number of reproductions here. William was one of the earliest artists to appreciate the security of income that might be achieved through sales of art via reproduction prints - and the gallery has focused on sales of reproductions of prints, as well as original paintings, thus spreading the appreciation of the work of the Heaton Coopers.
I've always been in complete awe of the paintings produced by the Heaton Coopers given the challenges associated with the painting in the Lakes. The Heaton Cooper Art Shop and Gallery in Grasmere is well worth a visit if you're ever in the area - and is still owned and run by Heaton Coopers! This business has a website where you can find:
- the Heaton Cooper Art Gallery This has a lot of examples of work by both Alfred and William.
- Heaton Cooper Art Materials (Shop) - they do an excellent online and offline order system. They have an excellent range of materials and it's the place I first bought my colour group boxes of Unison Pastels. I recommend them.