Earlier artists of the Bradford region are being celebrated in an exhibition at a local gallery.

The artworks have been brought together by Bingley Gallery owner, David Starley.

Original work, particularly landscapes, from more than 25 artists will be included in the show, for viewing and for sale. These will include notable artists such as Joe Pighills, Percy Monkman, Tom Clifton Butterfield plus some of the lesser-knowns who helped add to the rich artistic heritage of the district.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: View to Far Intake by James PighillsView to Far Intake by James Pighills

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Dick Hudsons by James HardakerDick Hudsons by James Hardaker

David explains that they reach the gallery in all conditions. Some are pristine, others have clearly not been cherished, perhaps having spent years in an attic, or in one case, he suspects, 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.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Arthur Craven, Barns in Botany Lane, LittondaleArthur Craven, Barns in Botany Lane, Littondale

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Frances Watson Sunderland, Marine Parade, WhitbyFrances Watson Sunderland, Marine Parade, Whitby

These notes tell us a lot about the art scene in part years. A surprisingly large number of art galleries existed in the last hundred years or so, with most towns having a gallery or two. Not all were prestigious establishments like Edwin Riby’s Gallery in Keighley which employed eight people.

More commonly the gallery was little more than a shop which combined selling space with a place to paint. James Hardaker’s in Bingley was an example of this. There may also be labels from exhibitions, giving details of the artist’s name, address, medium of painting and price (often in guineas). Comparing with the cost of loaves of bread or pints of beer it is clear that the prices paid for artworks made them significant purchases.

In preparing old paintings for exhibition, it is often necessary to remove the artwork from its frame - David jokes that he’s never yet found a Picasso tucked in behind, but other information does come to light. In the case of Arthur McArthur, his views of old Bradford were assumed to be later copies, but notes, by the artist, in the margins, proved that he had been on the spot at the time and therefore that the work was much earlier than previously thought.

The works shown in the exhibition are predominantly landscapes, hence the title ‘Looking Back’ It is generally the urban views that have changed most. In the countryside many landscapes have altered little, particularly the upland moors and the beauty spots protected by planning controls. The picturesque ruins of Bolton Abbey look quite as ruinous today even if they are underpinned to prevent further decay. Artists do favour quaint or historic views. Even so, changes in farming practices, such as the move from hand scythed corn stooks to mechanised baling, may be evident. Look more carefully and other changes are evident: A clay pit painted by Tom Butterfield was once a feature of Keighley but has now been filled in, tracks may now be tarmacked, pylons erected and in east coast harbours yachts have replaced fishing cobles. When Joe Pighills’ son, John, visited the gallery he pointed out which of the dilapidated cottages his father painted had since been demolished. However, others had been converted into stylish living accommodation. 

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Clay pit, Keighley, by Tom Clifton ButterfieldClay pit, Keighley, by Tom Clifton Butterfield

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Woodland waterfall by Maud Raphael JonesWoodland waterfall by Maud Raphael Jones

Styles of painting have changed too. Comparing a Joe Pighills watercolour to one by more recent Keighley artist, Arthur Craven, suggests that taste has moved towards less sombre tones. However, there is still much to admire from the older generation of watercolourists, many of whom received their excellent training through local Mechanic’s Institutes and art schools. We have these to thank- for much of our rich legacy of art in the region. Other artists, however, stepped aside from more traditional painting styles and such ‘vintage’ work is of particular interest at the moment. Artists such as Denise Rooum and Bingley’s Myriam Burton may have been going against local tastes in the 1960s but are now valued.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Coaching Wharves, Grimsby, 1961, by Gerald ParkinsonCoaching Wharves, Grimsby, 1961, by Gerald Parkinson

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Sisters by the Seas, 1962, by Denise RooumSisters by the Seas, 1962, by Denise Rooum

What do we know of the artists themselves? For some we are very fortunate: Percy Monkman, who painted from his home in Baildon has a detailed biography, written by his grandson, Martin Greenwood. Visits to the gallery from Gwen, the daughter of Bingley artist James Hardaker brought up stories of not only strong friendships between artists, but strong rivalries. John, son of Joe Pighills, has provided further anecdotes such as trips onto the moors with his father. John’s task was to shield the paper from the sun that dried the paint too quickly or, more commonly, from the rain that spoiled it.

We are immensely fortunate that, for the Bradford region, Art Historian Colin Neville has, through his ‘Not Just Hockney’ website and numerous booklets, gathered a wealth of information. However, there are works which remain anonymous. Many artists simply did not sign their work. A view of a no-longer existing pub in Shipley, The Royal Oak, has been lovingly depicted by an unknown hand. Naively painted – it is more folk art than fine art and the passage of time has not been kind, yet the view, with passers-by: men in natty suits and hats, young women with ponytails and full knee length skirts show a 1950s or 60s date that is sure to transport people of a certain age back to their youth.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The Royal Oak, around 1960, Shipley, artist unknownThe Royal Oak, around 1960, Shipley, artist unknown


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 (b 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 (b 1926 ), Joseph Pighills (1902-84), Edward Renard (1854-1915), Denise Rooum (1929-2018), William Charles Rushton (1860-1921), John Sowden (1838-1926), Frances Watson Sunderland (1866-1949), William Hartley Waddington (1883-1961) and John Dobby Walker (1863-1925).

The exhibition at The Bingley Gallery on Park Road, run until April 28.

Visit: davidstarleyartist.com/bingley