Hartlepool through the eyes of an American
This fantastic piece of art comes to us from the USA - and from the fine hand of Art Gunther.
But its origins are very much in Hartlepool and in Art’s rich links to our industrial landscape. It is a depiction of the town and is a tribute to his grandfather John Lyons’ days spent on the docks.
Art told us: “Since my granddad often walked the storm wall and saw the smoke from the former factories, I thought I would paint an abstract entitled ‘Man Walking on Storm Wall in Old Industrial Hartlepool.’
“John Lyons was my English grandfather, my late mother Patricia’s father.
“He married an Irish woman, Mary Bonner, in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, both died before my birth, and all I know of them was what my mom told me.”
John’s story is of a man who loved the maritime industry.
Art added: “I do know he walked the Hartlepool docks as a kid and then worked on them, shipping out as a young man on a merchant ship.
“He arrived in Brooklyn and decided to stay, becoming a longshoreman.”
But that’s where John’s time with Hartlepool ended even though the town he loved as a boy stayed in his heart forever.
“John never returned to Hartlepool, though he often spoke of it, of the storm wall, of visits to Scotland and to Newcastle,” said Art.
Art himself has had a 42 year career in newspapers “for a local daily north of New York City.”
He began as a copy boy in 1964 and “worked my way up as a staff photographer, reporter, feature writer, deskman and then served 25 years on the editorial page, writing edits and a weekly column.”
Art retired in 2006, “not because I wanted to but because newspapers are disappearing in America.”
But the extra time that he had on his hands meant he could turn his hand more towards his roots.
He said: “Recently, I came across photos of old, industrial Hartlepool, and since I have become a painter who exhibits at various galleries, I decided to paint an abstract view of a Hartlepool fellow walking near the storm wall, with the old smokestacks in the background.
“In a way, I seemed directed to do this work. When I walked about Hartlepool, I could feel my granddad’s presence, and the painting makes that link even stronger.
“In my 2001 visit, I was touched by the people and the landscape as well as their fine history.
“The old docks alone offer so many tales.”
We’re delighted that Art decided to tell his.
If you would like to follow his example and share your own family history, email [email protected]