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A personal view...

my first picture

I bought my first picture when I was twelve. Having been lucky enough to be brought up in a house with beautiful Georgian furniture, from the very beginning I loved being surrounded by beautiful things. It seemed natural, too, to want to add; to fill holes; to improve the collection.

And yet collecting, the buzz of something perfect to one’s taste, is an intensely personal thing: my mother said that she did not mind not having a picture on the wall, so long as she could have her china! My three favourites quickly became English watercolours and Georgian silver and furniture.

After we married in 1970 and Yorkshire became my adoptive home, we spent many happy holidays in The Thatched Cottage (also known as Lady Palmer’s) at Runswick Bay while living in Ellerby Street in Fulham. At about this time I met Peter Phillips, who brought the Staithes Group to public attention as a distinct and identifiable group of artists. At the first exhibition of his that I went to, he had a Rowland Henry Hill showing The Thatched Cottage and another of the Ellerby Inn in Runswick’s nearest village. I was lost!

And so began a thirty year love affair with an intensely romantic place – quintessentially English, but with mysterious tales of villagers being descended from survivors of the Spanish Armada; the heart-stopping view of Whitby as you top the dark moors; the bustle and smell of a fishing community still turned to the sea; the cottages precariously perched in their narrow and twisting ginnels.

These were the sights and people who captivated the artists of the Staithes Art Club and brought them back year after year. They were able, in such an evocative place, to produce outstanding British art in a new form – and we can just marvel, and join them across a century by loving their work.

Simon Wood
Harrogate Exhibition 2003.