by Jeannie Swales
This pretty little watercolour is the latest acquisition by Scarborough Museums Trust.
Entitled Scarborough Fisher Girls, it’s the work of Frank Henry Mason (1875-1965), a fine painter of maritime scenes and seascapes who lived in Scarborough and did many paintings of the town.
Born in Seaton Carew, County Durham, Mason was the son of railway clerk. He was a sea cadet at the HMS Conway Naval School at Birkenhead between 1880 and 1882, then spent time at sea as a marine engineer for the Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Company, working from Hartlepool and Scarborough, where he eventually came to live in 1894.
Mason had always been a keen amateur artist, but had never trained formally – when he settled in the town, he enrolled at the Scarborough School of Art, where he studied under the renowned marine artist and yacht designer, Albert Strange. It didn’t take long for the talented Mason to start receiving professional commissions, and in 1898 he left his job to become a full-time artist.
In 1901, he became a founder member of the Staithes Art Club, now internationally famous as the Staithes Group. Inspired by the French impressionists, the group was also known as ‘the Northern impressionists’. Other members included his friend and fellow marine artist, Ernest Dade, and Dame Laura Knight and her husband Harold.
In 1904, Mason was elected to the Royal Society of British Artists.
During World War One, Mason served with the Royal Naval Reserve as a war artist specialising in shipping – many of his paintings from this period are held in the collections of the Imperial War Museum. Some can also be seen, alongside gentler subjects, on the BBC Your Paintings website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/search/painted_by/frank-henry-mason
After the war, Mason began to paint railway subjects, and designed poster artwork for many companies including the Great Northern, the Great Western, London, Midland and Scottish, North Eastern, London and North Eastern, British Rail and the Underground, plus various ocean liner companies.
His poster designs were mostly done during the 1920s and 30s, and are fine examples of the Art Deco style of the period – very different to his paintings, which are generally described as ‘light impressionism’.
Another painting by Mason, Scarborough Paddle-Wheel Tug, is currently on display in Scarborough Art Gallery.
Scarborough Fisher Girls is now part of the Scarborough Collections, the name given to all the museum objects and artwork owned by the borough, and in the care of the charitable Scarborough Museums Trust. For further information, please contact collections manager Jennifer Dunne on Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org or 01723 384510.