RENOWNED Seaton Carew artist Frank Henry Mason will be celebrated in a major retrospective exhibition of his work to mark the 50th anniversary of his death.
Called ‘Ashore and Afloat: The Art of Frank Henry Mason 1875-1965’, it’s in Hartlepool Art Gallery in Church Square from tomorrow to Saturday, May 30.
One of the most prolific railway poster artists of his time, Mason is also known for his many marine paintings, and this exhibition will bring many of his works of art together for the first time.
As well as items from Hartlepool Museums’ own holdings, the display will also feature items on loan from institutions and private collectors around the country.
Born in Seaton Carew in 1875, Mason went to sea in his youth, training from aged 12 on HMS Conway off Birkenhead. He later trained as an engineer and shipbuilder but gave it up in 1897 to make his living through art.
He had no formal training and developed his own watercolour technique, starting with the dark shades and working to the lighter colours, rather than the more usual method of working the other way around.
His railway posters in particular are very visually memorable and, even 50 years after his death, are still very modern.Charlotte Taylor, Hartlepool Borough Council’s cultural services officer
In 1890 he exhibited at the Royal Academy for the first time and from then until the outbreak of war in 1914 he travelled widely, sketching. From 1910 he also started to paint his famous posters advertising the railways.
He continued to sketch throughout the Great War, during which he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, serving in Egypt and later patrolling the North Sea.
After the war he was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum in London to paint a large number of watercolours and gouache studies based on his wartime sketches and the IWM now holds a large collection of both oils and watercolours by Mason.
By 1927 Mason had moved to London and was working on marine paintings, posters, etchings and ship models. Although he continued to paint for exhibition, commercial art became an ever-increasing part of his work.
During the Second World War he designed a recruitment poster for the Navy and worked at Leamington Spa on camouflaging with the Naval Division. He became a member of the Royal Society of Marine Artists in 1962 and in 1953 became President of Hartlepool Art Club - a position he held until his death in 1965.
Charlotte Taylor, Hartlepool Borough Council’s cultural services officer, said: “Frank Henry Mason was a hugely important artist in terms of both his maritime and his railway poster paintings.
“He was an artist of great quality. His railway posters in particular are very visually memorable and, even 50 years after his death, are still very modern.”
Hartlepool Art Gallery is open Tuesdays to Saturdays 10am to 5pm and entry is free.