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The T.B. & R. Jordan Collection

14th June 2023.

For over 40 years Tom and Rosamund Jordan were leading specialists in the Staithes Group of painters, a pioneering group of artists drawn to the tiny, picturesque fishing village of Staithes on the North Yorkshire Coast in the late 19th and early 20th century, attracted to the area by the towering cliffs, stormy seas, the clarity of light and eminently paintable cottages and harbours. The Jordans, who were equally passionate about Staithes, were champions of this pioneering group of artists, and over 100 works from their collection will be offered in a single owner sale at Tennants Auctioneers on 15th July. Included are works by the likes of a Mark Senior, Owen Bowen, Arthur A. Friedenson and Frank Henry Mason, with examples of their work depicting the North Yorkshire Coast and Moors and works from their later travels. 

For a short spell, Staithes was an important artistic centre at the forefront of the British Impressionist movement. The Staithes School artists were greatly inspired by the French Impressionists, working en plein air to capture fleeting moments of light, air, and water, albeit with an edge of harder, northern grit. The artists lived amongst the fishermen and women, often lodging in their homes. Not only did this provide a much-needed boost to the local economy, but it allowed them to understand the hardships of the fishing community, and thus depict them with realism, insight, and empathy.

The movement began with the likes of Thomas Barrett, a professor at Nottingham School of Art, who first visited in 1880, and William Gilbert Foster, who bought a cottage in Runswick Bay in 1890. The completion of the Staithes Railway in 1883 greatly improved accessibility and gradually more and more artists were drawn to the area, some staying for a summer, and others putting down roots. Perhaps the most widely recognised artists today were Harold Knight and Laura Johnson (later Laura Knight), pupils of Barrett at Nottingham School of Art. Barrett had told them that “there is no place like it in all the world for painting”.

1901 saw the formalisation of the Staithes School of Art with their first exhibition at the Staithes Fishermen’s Institute. They would exhibit annually, later moving to the Anderson Gallery in Whitby, until 1907. At this point, the group had grown to some 40 artists, and they were unable to find a venue large enough to accommodate the exhibition. This, combined with the exhibition clashing with the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in London, a scarcity of patrons in the area, and many of the artists looking for new pastures to paint, meant 1907 would mark the end of the Staithes School. Some, like the Knights, moved south to Cornwall, others moved abroad, however a select few remained in the area for the rest of their lives. The remaining artists would amalgamate with the Yorkshire Union of Artists.

Highlights of the collection include ‘Loaded Hay Wagon and Haymaking Before a Sun Drenched Coast’ by Arthur A Friedenson (1872-1955) (estimate: £1,000-1,500 plus buyer’s premium), ‘Bringing Home the Cows’ by Owen Bowen (1873-1967) (estimate: £1,500-2,500), “Mending the Nets” by Ralph Hedley (1848-1913) (estimate: £800-1,200), and ‘Trawler at Sea’ by Frank Henry Mason (1875-1965) (estimate: £700-1,000).

The collection also includes select works by later Yorkshire artists, notably three works by Len Tabner (b.1946), known for his elemental depictions of seascapes, particularly those of the North Yorkshire coastline around his home. These are led by a Seascape depicting Old Nab, a rock formation near Staithes, on offer with an estimate of £3,000-5,000. 

Part II of the Jordan’s collection will be sold later in the year.   

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