Friday, July 25, 2008

Alfred Heaton Cooper and The English Lakes

I bought a book recently "The English Lakes" because it contained 75 paintings by Alfred Heaton Cooper (1863-1929). When they were young, my parents used to walk a lot and enjoyed visiting the Lake District to walk on the Fells. At home and we used to have small reproductions of paintings by the Heaton Coopers (Alfred and William) hanging on the walls when I was little.

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.
Book synopsis
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:
Book details: "The English Lakes" Paintings by Alfred Heaton Cooper, Introduction by Bill Birkett and Jane Renouf, Text by Colin Inman and Rosemary Anderson. Hardcover. Worth Press Ltd (13 Nov 2006) ISBN-10: 1903025443 ISBN-13: 978-1903025444


  1. I've gone on a week's sketching in the Lakes for the last three years and the first trip was to Grasmere.

    The Heaton Cooper Art Gallery is, as you say, a real pleasure to visit, but should anyone choose to go there, I'd recommend a good supply of cash or a spacious credit card, because the place is a treasure trove of wonderful art materials!

  2. It's a shame he never made much money as an artist as he was clearly a very talented artist. Some of those paintings at that gallery site looked like photographs!

  3. I absolutely love Alfred Heaton Coopers work! I stumbled on a book of his watercolours when I was at school (a loooong time ago) and tried to copy them. Although my attempts were cr*p compared to his, it really got me into landscape painting at the age of 12.

    In the 1980's my husband and I actually met him on a mountain path in Switzerland, purely by accident, painting away. Of course we just left him in peace :-)

    The Heaton Cooper Studio is definitely well worth a visit; you can spend hours (and a lot of dosh if you're not careful). The mail order is excellent too - I use it all the time for the Spectrum Colorfix range.

    Thanks for your excellent blog - I read it every day!

  4. Harry - I absolutely agree re the finances - that place is a bit of a treasure trove.

    Sam - I guess some of them may have been painted again in the studio - but so far as I'm aware they all started as plein air paintings

    Theresa - presumably it was William that you met. My father did exactly the same thing - he found him one day while out walking in the Lakes. I think he was at the top of one of the fells at the time!

  5. You and I are having another one of our moments. David and I were just talking about the lake district. He wants to do a walk in this area and I would love to, too. I will buy a copy of this beautiful book as a present to him. Thank you for another inspiring and synchronistic post.


COMMENTS HAVE BEEN SUSPENDED AGAIN due to very silly ignorant people who leave spam comments without realising they have no benefit for them.

Please feel free to comment on my Facebook Page as my blog posts are always posted there (but please note anonymous comments are not published and I block and report spammers to Google and on Facebook)

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.