You don’t have to be an expert in art to understand why artists flock to Yorkshire. From the wild, rugged moors to the verdant dales stitched with dry stone walls, the dramatic seaside coast and the plethora of bustling market towns and rural villages—to put it quite frankly—we've got it all. With such spectacular and varied scenery and culture within one county, Yorkshire nourishes artists past and present with an inexhaustible source of inspiration, giving each artist cause to pledge his or her brush to translating our beloved Yorkshire into magnificent fine art.
The fact of the matter is that ‘God’s Own Country’ has been attracting artists for centuries. Drawn by the county’s distinctive beauty and its patrons alike, ‘Mr Turner’ himself had an indisputable passion for Yorkshire, and spent a significant amount of his life working (and playing) here. While not necessarily from Yorkshire, J.M.W. Turner nonetheless did the county proud. Over the years he poured his intensity and romantic genius into a vast collection of sketches, watercolours and oil paintings that captured and immortalised the simultaneous danger and charm of Yorkshire’s landscapes.
The nurturing of local artists is also nothing new for the county. Frederick William Elwell (1870-1958), exhibitor at the Paris Salon and member of the prestigious Royal Academy, was a born and bred Yorkshire lad from Beverley. Later settling in his hometown with his wife and fellow artist Mary Dawson Elwell, it comes as no surprise that a significant amount of Elwell’s paintings were inspired by the people and places of Yorkshire. His devotion to realistically documenting Yorkshire life yielded an honest and emotive compilation of work, with nearly 180 paintings now held in public galleries throughout the country; paintings that nostalgically inspire pride in the hearts of Yorkshire folk, and graciously provide a glimpse into the county’s historical environment and culture for those that wish they were.
Today, a wide variety of artists continue to turn to Yorkshire for inspiration. The county’s classic beauty makes it a perfect subject for traditional artists. Lincolnshire artist Ken Burton makes regular tours of Yorkshire, chronicling its beloved towns, villages and iconic landmarks in exquisitely detailed watercolour paintings full of architectural precision and enchantment. Landscape artist Edward Hersey’s perspective landscapes are equally enchanting, elegantly depicting the timeless farms and picturesque barns so characteristic of the county. His ability to capture the county’s rustic beauty with such understated sophistication has made him exceptionally popular with those who hold a fondness for Yorkshire’s pastoral life.
In the realm of the contemporary, the legendary Yorkshire artist David Hockney surely takes the crown. While much of his work was inspired by his life in California, in recent years he has drawn inspiration from his roots, producing vibrant and spellbinding paintings of the woodlands and landscapes of the Yorkshire Wolds. And when it comes to emerging contemporary artists, Yorkshire landscape artist Clare Haley is positively in a league of her own. Her superb depictions of Yorkshire’s majestic landscapes as they respond to the elements could quickly see her rival Turner for his title of ‘Painter of Light’.
The list of artists inspired by Yorkshire goes on and on—Ashley Jackson, Katherine Holmes, Carl Whitfield, Jonathan Pomroy—to even attempt counting them would be impossible. In any case, it’s safe to say that artists past and present have, and continue to thrive in Yorkshire’s bounty and produce artworks of astounding variation. For even when the subject or scene is the same, each work of art is completely individualised, capturing a range of perspectives and emotions reflective of the artist’s own affair with the county. Thanks to the myriad ways Yorkshire unceasingly inspires, we are bequeathed with an ever-flourishing, diverse and multifaceted collection of fine art that celebrates the complex persona of the Yorkshire we all know and love.