Doncaster's an oil painting for town art group

Doncaster Art club members l-r Julian Grainger, Arthur Begg, Brenda Russell-Neville and Penny Cawley, pictured at Doncaster Museum where their work along with other members is currently on display. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP Art Club MC 1
Doncaster Art club members l-r Julian Grainger, Arthur Begg, Brenda Russell-Neville and Penny Cawley, pictured at Doncaster Museum where their work along with other members is currently on display. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP Art Club MC 1

Monet had his waterlilies. Van Gogh had his sunflowers.

But Doncaster's artists have their farms and grand buildings for their own great inspiration, reckons the chairman of Doncaster's art club.

This year the club is celebrating its 120th anniversary, and the group is still thriving all this time after it was first set up by a group of Victorian painters above a dentists' surgery near the town centre, and its annual exhibition at Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery is running this month.

Mike Shaw, the group's chairman since 1995, who loves to paint landscapes and streetscapes, says no one can say Doncaster is no oil painting.

Retired civil servant Mike's favourite art outing is to go to Sandbeck Hall, Lord Scarbrough's house at Firbeck. The group goes there together twice a year for two days of painting.

"There is so much to paint in Doncaster. We tend to favour old farms, like Bilham Farm and Hooton Pagnell, but there are other great places to paint too, like Thorne Marina, the waterfront at Stainforth, and Strawberry Island Boat Club.

"We may not have any seaside, we may not be the Lake District, but we do have some great country houses to paint like Hickelton Hall, Cusworth Hall, and Brodsworth."

The club was set up in 1897 and held its first meetings at Hallgate. One of the group was a dentist, who let them use one of his rooms. Now they use Hall Cross School for the the meetings of their 50-strong membership.

Of those 50, a total of 31 have put exhibits into the latest exhibition. The work on show is made up of 134 paintings and seven wood sculptures. Most of them are for sale.

The first exhibition Mike can remember was the first one he took part in, which was in the 1980s, but the group has run an exhibition each year since World War Two.

However there have been changes made over the years.

Until the 1990s, the group had an official selection process for membership. People had to submit work, and they were accepted on the basis of a decision by a committee. That has now been ditched.

"We take anyone who wants to join now," said Mike, of Bessacarr. "There is still a strict selection process for the exhibition, but things were a lot stricter in the past. We do try to get at least one piece of work from each member in these days. We changed things in the 90s and I think it has been a popular change. We like to be inclusive.

"We have always had a reasonable supply of new members, and people are still really interested in painting."

FIRST EXHIBITION

Keen Doncaster painter Brenda Russell-Neville is thrilled at taking part in her first exhibition - and says a horrific injury has helped her return to painting

Brenda, a comparative newcomer to Doncaster Art Club will have work on show for the first time, and has eight paintings on show this year.

The 54-year-old transport manager from Bawtry has returned to painting after more than 20 years, and is taking part in her first exhibition. She has already sold a painting.

She said: "I used to paint, and I passed an O Level in art, but I stopped when I was about 24 - life got in the way and I was too busy.

"Then I found an old box of oil paints in the attic a few years, and I started again. I learned how to paint in water colour too.

"Then I suddenly found myself with time to paint. I fell off a horse and broke my pelvis in 2011.

"I had to be still for six weeks, and then had another two months to recover. It left me with a lot of time for painting, and I learned all sorts of new techniques."

Since joining Doncaster Art Club, Brenda has taken part in an outdoors art day in Misson, painting around the village.

And she said she is excited about taking part in her first proper exhibition. Many of her friends have pledged to go and see her work in the gallery.

She said: "I'm overwhelmed by the whole thing.

"What was really exciting for me, was that the exhibition was launched on July 22, which was my first wedding anniversary - it was great to have two reasons to celebrate, and it was a really memorable day."

FAMOUS MEMBER

Doncaster Art club's most famous member is its present, David Curtis.

David, a former Doncaster College lecturer from Misson, is a member of the Royal Society of Marine Artists and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, and has had a number of books on painting published.

The 69-year-old headed an engineering design team until 1988 when he became a full time painter.

Chairman Mike Shaw said: "I think it's fair to say David is our most famous member. People buy his work from all over the world, and he has an international reputation."

David is also one of three current members of the group who have work currently in Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery's own permanent collection, along with Jim Baldry and Mike Shaw.

FUTURE HOPES

The current venue of the Doncaster Art Club show, the Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery on Chequer Road, is the latest venue for the annual event - but could soon change.

For many years, it was held at the previous art gallery at Beechfield House, where the Civic Quarter now stands. It moved to the Chequer Road site when the current museum was built.

But the future of the exhibition in terms of its venue is uncertain at present, with plans drawn up to build a new combined museum, art gallery, library and archives, next to the current civic building.

Chairman Mike Shaw said: "We have heard about the plans for the museum, and I understand the floor space is slightly smaller, but we would certainly hope to be in there when it opens in a few years time. We would love to exhibit there."