CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to EADT Suffolk today CLICK HERE

Celebrating the ordinary

PUBLISHED: 12:10 14 July 2015 | UPDATED: 12:10 14 July 2015

Alan Marshall says 'Whether observing the plough teams, cart loaders or sheep shearers, he (Harry Becker) wasn’t seeking painted perfection or to create masterpieces for gallery walls, but was simply paying tribute to the men and beasts that brought life to the landscape around him.'

Alan Marshall says 'Whether observing the plough teams, cart loaders or sheep shearers, he (Harry Becker) wasn’t seeking painted perfection or to create masterpieces for gallery walls, but was simply paying tribute to the men and beasts that brought life to the landscape around him.'

Archant

A group of artists want to put Edwardian artist Harry Becker firmly on Suffolk’s art map. Lucy Etherington meets them beneath the Wenhaston Doom

A group of artists are exhibiting in Wenhaston Church in the summer.
L-R  Ruth McCabe, Arabella Marshall, Mike Holtom,Jilifar Amor.A group of artists are exhibiting in Wenhaston Church in the summer. L-R Ruth McCabe, Arabella Marshall, Mike Holtom,Jilifar Amor.

EAST ANGLIAN ARTISTS INSPIRED BY HARRY BECKER

FRIDAY JULY 31 - Monday AUGUST 3

10am to 5pm (Monday 4pm)

ST PETERS CHURCH, WENHASTON, IP19 9BJ

Harry BeckerHarry Becker

ibbartsociety@gemail.com, Free Entry

When the artist Harry Becker relocated from London to Wenhaston in 1913, Suffolk was a completely different place. There were no cafes or artisan bread shops. No rich second homers looking to fill their weekend cottages with local art.

But Becker, whose fame had been growing in London, was driven by an artistic passion so powerful, it probably led to his financial undoing. He would spend days painting and drawing in the fields, producing loose and almost impressionistic figurative works. These are now highly collected and admired. Becker himself, however, died in poverty in 1928.

Nowadays, there are so many artists who have relocated to East Anglia, it’s hard to throw a paint brush without hitting one. Three years ago, a number of them decided to pay tribute to Becker and held an exhibition in St Peters Church, Wenhaston.

“I’ve been blown away by how many artists want to exhibit,” says watercolourist Ruth McCabe who organised the first exhibition back in 2013 – the centenary of Becker’s arrival in the East of England. “I mean, this is a church in a little Suffolk village miles from anywhere, and it’s not exactly a money spinner. It’s testimony to Becker that he can generate this interest.”

The exhibition has drawn some impressive local talent, all working in a wide variety of media and already well collected.

“I think the reason it attracts so much warm attention is because we are celebrating someone else’s work,” Ruth says. “It’s not self-centred. It’s in honour of a great local artist who died in poverty.”

St Peters is known for its imposing 16th Century wall hanging, The Doom, in which worried looking naked people await the Day of Judgement. This year’s exhibition in honour of Becker, the third, will include a candlelit talk of the impressive piece, followed by a twilight bat tour and talk.

There will also be a display of heritage farm tools that were around in the turn of the 19th century, a large centrepiece about the artist himself, including some of his work, plus a walk through some of the landscapes Becker painted.

The exhibiting artists have formed the Inspired By Becker Art Society (IBB for short) and hope to host more regular events and workshops in his name. This past year they have been getting together to sketch in the fields the way Becker did.

“For me as a graphic designer it’s inspiring to get outdoors and work like this in our digital age,” says Sandy Horsley, who lives in the village and often hosts the IBB meetings.

“He got down on the ground and captured the action with these raw, minimal marks,” says textile artist Jillifar Amor. “When I tried it I realised how difficult that was.”

The weather hasn’t exactly favoured their excursions, and a trip to the local garage to try and capture the movement of modern day workers, the way Becker appeared to do so effortlessly, was interrupted when the mechanics they were drawing disappeared to do an MOT. All the more reason, they say, to admire Becker’s dedication to his craft.

“We’re all spoiled these days by the availability of materials,” says Wil Harvey, the IBB official chair and an oil painter who paints very much in the loose style of Becker. “But Becker had to struggle. Sometimes he painted on cardboard because he couldn’t afford canvas.”

“One of the things that inspires me is the power in his line,” says Arabella Marshall, a glass artist. “He can convey the strain in someone’s back in just one stroke. People worked differently in those days and the fact that he can capture the effects of repetitive work on their bodies is extraordinary.”

Arabella, whose work is colourful and layered, says the drawing excursions have inspired her to produce something different. As we sit in the church beneath the Doom, she is staring at one of the glass windows, an idea clearly forming.

Ruth agrees. “When I look at his work, I can feel how hard they are working and how hot it is. He has the grace of the ordinary. It’s a balance to our celebrity culture where everything has to be fast and extraordinary.

“Perhaps this is why Becker was drawn to Suffolk – why we all are. I’ve just been to Yorkshire where the landscape is so dramatic. Suffolk is a quiet, ordinary space that he made so powerful.”

Becker’s family rented at least two of the local houses –Sunnyside and the Old Vicarage, and as his financial situation worsened, a remote farm cottage three miles away. The IBB group live in Wenhaston or nearby and relish the fact that everywhere you go you can see a Becker landscape, something they want to inspire in others.

“What we would love is for the people of Whenhaston to feel that Becker is a part of their heritage, the way that Constable belongs to Dedham Vale,” says Ruth. “That’s the main driving force of the exhibition: to put Becker on the map.”

More from Suffolk

Fri, 16:28

Spirit Yachts is a Suffolk success story. After 25 years of designing and building luxury vessels sailed all over the world, it has plenty to celebrate | Words: Ross Bentley

Read more
Wed, 14:52

Creative couple David and Henrietta Villiers have designed a stunning new home at Aldeburgh | Words & Photos: Tony Hall

Read more
Wed, 14:40

With so much going on around Suffolk this weekend, it’s not easy to decide what amazing events you’ll be attending. Allow our handy guide to 5 things to do make that decision a little easier!

Read more
Tue, 14:44

Cocktails with dinner? Tessa Allingham dines at The Northgate, Bury St Edmunds, where chef Greig Young says good food can be fun

Read more
Tue, 12:04

Not many people know it but a lot of your favourite films have been made in Suffolk. From blockbusters to independent, here are 21 films made in Suffolk.

Read more
Tue, 09:34

With breath-taking beaches, stunning stately homes and picture-perfect places, it’s no wonder so many TV shows choose to film in Suffolk. Here are 20 that set up camp in our county

Read more
Friday, November 9, 2018

We’re always looking for ways to reverse the signs of ageing, and ways to keep our skin looking fresh and youthful, and the ACCOR Plasma Pen is the new treatment promising to deliver these results. Sue French at French Complexion in Hadleigh answers your questions...

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Private, intimate and unforgettable: here’s why you should consider a bespoke package wedding at a stately home

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

We all love a good cup of coffee, whether it’s a latte, flat white or just plain black Suffolk is home to a multitude of wonderful local coffee shops. Here are 10 of our favourites with no chains in sight!

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

An exclusive charity sale at Bishop & Miller gives Ed Sheeran fans the chance to own some of the singer’s personal items

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

EADT Suffolk Magazine regular newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search