An exhibition opening this weekend offers a chance for art-lovers to snap up work by late artist Richard Hobson. BARBARA HODGSON meets the widow of a man who created a vibrant social document of the region
SHIPYARDS under moody skies, smoking chimneys towering over huddled roof tops, and the hulking shape of colliery slag heaps.
Once-familiar North East scenes – now fast-disappearing if not already long-gone – are the work of artist Richard Hobson whose life and art are being celebrated in a selling exhibition opening this weekend at Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead.
There are 45 or so watercolours and monotypes (a process involving lying paper over an image painted on glass), their subjects – fishing trawlers, power stations, sheep auctions, markets and coasts – all full of colour, movement and energy.
This is the personal collection of Pat Hobson, the widow of the artist, who died from cancer in 2004 at the age of just 59, who’s decided to sell some of the work on show, providing an unique opportunity for buyers to own their own piece of local history.
Showing me the artworks yesterday, Pat admits this is an emotional time; just seeing her husband’s name up there on display hit home.
“I’m letting go of some of them. It’s a terrible wrench but I can’t keep them all. I really thought long and hard about it.
“I think there’s a bit of me in each one of these,” she adds but points out that paintings are meant to be seen after all.
The shipyard monotypes – “his preferred medium” – are her favourites, a big panorama of cranes in particular. “Richard would ask me ‘what do you think’? about a painting and there was always a long discussion.”
Regular locations for him were Sunderland and Tyne Dock and the Swan Hunter and Appledore yards where he would work, in situ, until late in the day, returning the next.
“He got permission from the shipyard management to go and people knew him,” says Pat. “He’d be painting or sketching and they’d talk to him and he always had a tale to tell.”
Hobson, who was born in Derby and moved with his family to the North East when he was very young, was not just a talented artist.
He worked as a conservator at The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle for 31 years, having trained at Newcastle College then at Gateshead College where in 1973 he gained a diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings.
Pat, a retired lecturer in public health policy, says: “His art was very important.
“He worked three days at Bowes Museum and one fed into the other ... he loved Bowes Museum and conservation of paintings and he loved doing his own work.”