Art of Hartlepool legend on show

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ONE of Hartlepool’s finest artists is to be celebrated in a major new exhibition.

The life and work of John McCracken, who is best-known for his portraits of Hartlepool people, went on display At Hartlepool Art Gallery on Saturday and runs until Saturday, April 2.

John McCracken in 1971

John McCracken in 1971

Belfast-born John, who died in 1982 aged just 46, is also remembered as a talented and charismatic poet and a lecturer at the former Hartlepool College of Art.

He was also a curator of the town’s Gray Art Gallery and Museum and was instrumental in acquiring several important modern works of art for the town’s collection.

The exhibition, called John McCracken – His Work and Influences, includes a selection of John’s paintings, poems and letters plus photographs from his life, many of which have been lent by John’s widow Carol and sister Deirdre.

Also featured will be paintings by his contemporaries and influences, including Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon and Frank Auerbach.

Local influences are represented by work by Alan Turner, Peter Knox and Nerys Johnson.

The Tate Gallery in London, Newcastle’s Hatton Gallery, MIMA in Middlesbrough and Tyne and Wear Museums and Archives Services have also lent images.

Jean-Philippe Stienne, collections access officer for Hartlepool Borough Council’s cultural services section, said: “John was one of the greatest artists which Hartlepool has produced in the last 50 years.”

From 1956 to 1959 John attended the Slade School, where Lucian Freud was a visiting lecturer.

Their friendship grew and later, while John was working at the Gray Art Gallery and Museum from 1962 to 1973, he was able to arrange for Hartlepool to host the major 1972 exhibition of Freud’s work – the only venue outside London to do so. The gallery is open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10am to 5pm and admission is free.

For more information, call (01429) 869706.