19 March 2021
Conversation with Peter Brown on painting en plein air in Harrogate for the opening of his exhibition ‘Paintings of Yorkshire’. The conversation was live on the Messums Yorkshire Instagram.
One of the greatest plein-air painters of our time, Peter Brown, has braced the snow and lockdown to capture the beauty of Harrogate in a debut of his works at Messums Yorkshire.
Brown, who is President of the New English Art Club, first became captivated by the distinct character of urban architecture and how it affects human interaction in Bath, where he lives.
But the appeal of exploring another Georgian spa town with its terraces, crescents and Athenian columns lured him to Harrogate the day before Lockdown Two.
“I was struck by the old-fashioned feel of Harrogate – the cast iron structures fronting parades of shops the wonderful tool shops such as Arkwrights with their old style graphics advertising ‘Electrical goods’ and ‘Spanners’,” he says.
“I found my first painting looking across the front of the Yorkshire Hotel at Cambridge Crescent, Parliament St and Betty’s Tea Room. It was a nervous fiddly start lacking confidence and residing in tiny detail. Those paintings can finish you off! You fiddle and fiddle and are never happy but determined to break the duck, you work on it for too long and finish exhausted.”
However, salvation after this tricky start came when he discovered the ravishing view from the bottom of Cornwall Road towards “the delicious curving dipping and rising of Crescent Road and Royal Parade with the Royal Pump room in the fore.”
“I painted with confidence and chatted to locals,” he says.
After graduating from Manchester Polytechnic, ‘Pete the Street’ as he is affectionately known, returned to the streets of Bath, painting on-site whatever the weather.
Never one to stay put for long he and his easel are now regularly spotted throughout London, Cardiff, Dublin, Edinburgh, Paris, and even Udaipur, not to mention the coves, cliffs and shores of Cornwall, Dorset, Devon, Somerset and Brittany.
“I work entirely from life using the cities and the countryside as my subjects. I start with what tickles me, and this is likely to be a certain play of the light, weather, space and everyday life. Most of my drawings and paintings take several sittings over consecutive days and in that time I may meet police officers, dog walkers, road sweepers, residents and tourists.”