Thursday, 29 November 2012

The artist George Weatherill (1810-90) and his children

George Weatherill was born in Staithes in 1810 and died in Whitby in 1890.  His delicate, subtle watercolours of the Whitby area have always been widely known and loved he has been called the "Turner of the North".

One of the largest and most important collections of his work was that of County Alderman Robert Elliott Pannett (1834-1920).  His devotion to the welfare of Whitby and its people led him to many acts of generosity, and in 1902 he bought land near the centre of the ancient, crowded town because he believed that both residents and visitors would benefit from a park where they could enjoy fresh air, trees and flowers.  He bequeathed the land to the town – it is now Pannett Park.

There you will find the Pannett Art Gallery.   This was another gift to Whitby from Mr Pannett, built to house his art collection.  It opened on 1 August 1928, with one gallery devoted entirely to the display of 148 paintings by George Weatherill.  (I think the Art Gallery website is very new and still under construction – I look forward to more appearing on their Galleries page.)

George taught all his children to draw and paint, but their work is less widely known. 

Mary Weatherill (1834-1913) showed such rapid progress that in her late teens she was not only selling her watercolours, but also giving art lessons to pupils.  She studied in London, and was fortunate in being invited by some of her wealthier pupils to join them on painting vacations in France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Norway.  She usually painted in watercolours, and her subjects were mostly landscapes.  She exhibited in London, Leeds and York, finding a ready sale for her works.  She did not marry.

Sarah Ellen Weatherill (1836-1920) also studied in London and exhibited in London, Leeds and York.  Sadly, failing eyesight forced her to abandon painting early in life and her painting career was almost over by the time of her marriage to Charles Buchannan in 1875.  She occasionally painted up to 1894, by which time her sight was so poor that she could scarcely read, even with spectacles.

Elizabeth Weatherill (1841-1918) was the third of the sisters.  She was also a keen and talented young artist in watercolours, but with Mary a full-time artist, Sarah Ellen a young mother, and their own mother Sarah Coulson suffering from failing health, it fell to Elizabeth to run the family home.  She did not marry and could not pursue her artistic career, but work by her does survive.

Richard Weatherill (1844-1923) was the youngest child and only son.  He served an apprenticeship as a druggist in Whitby, but he had little interest in the work and his health was suffering, so he turned to art as a full-time career.  He was deeply interested in the sea and ships and, if his health had been stronger, would have loved to have gone to sea – instead, he painted marine subjects.  He went on several sea voyages, knew the local seamen, and in 1908 published his The Ancient Port of Whitby and its Shipping.

Much of the above information on the Weatherills' artistic careers comes from a beautiful little booklet, George Weatherill: his Life & his Family (1998) by Robert Patterson.  Mr Patterson and I had a long correspondence, as he had information to give me, and I had information for him regarding errors in his text – I don't know if he was able to produce a revised edition, or if the booklet is still available today.

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