The artist, Peter Brook (1927- 2009), is usually associated with his oil paintings of Pennine landscape and architecture. But, his oil painting, ‘Staithes’, in the permanent collection of Bradford Museums and Galleries, and displayed at Cliffe Castle, Keighley, is an exception to this.
It catches the lop-sided jumble of buildings in the old part of the village at the sea edge. Tide is out and the sun is shining on the houses and sea wall. The marks on the mud and the green of the cliffs in the background frame the main subject of the painting and give it depth.
The colours of the stone, tiles and brick work, combined with the anarchy of the architecture, give this painting an immediate appeal. The algae, lit with at least four shades of green on the stone work, and particularly that creeping up the wall toward the house, is a reminder of the impact of the sea on the inhabitants of the village.
The figure looking over the rail is the artist – he tended to place himself strategically in many of his later paintings. As we view the painting, the left facing sway of his body complements the left tilt of the houses and roofs in the top section of the painting, and even the topmost gull leans its wings in line with the tilt of its eave perch.
Peter Brook was born in December 1927 in the Pennine village of Scholes, above Holmfirth. His family was from a farming background, although his father left the family dairy farm to become an insurance agent. Peter always drew, and the countryside around him became a natural subject for him. His parents were not initially supportive of his artistic talents, fearing it would not lead anywhere. However, the art teacher at Barnsley Grammar School, encouraged him and instilled technical discipline into his work in the areas of drawing and perspective.
Peter went from Grammar School to Goldsmiths College, London, where he studied for three years and gained an Advanced Teacher’s Diploma. After his National Service in the RAF, he became a teacher in Rastrick, near Brighouse, where his parents now lived. He combined teaching with his own work, which became increasingly popular with local people.
In 1962 he was elected a member of the Royal Society of British Artists. His work is now found in many private collections, commercial galleries, and in the in collections of the Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council, Leeds City Art Gallery, Leeds University, V&A in London, and Wakefield Art Gallery.