Portrait Gypsy Mother by brother of well-known local family

Gypsy Mother by local artist Richard E Clarke (1878-1954).
Gypsy Mother by local artist Richard E Clarke (1878-1954).

In celebration of Mothering Sunday this weekend, a tender and loving portrait of a mother breastfeeding her baby.

This beautiful picture, entitled Gypsy Mother, was painted in oils on canvas around 1920 by Richard E Clarke (1878-1954). Clarke was the younger brother of William James Clarke (1871-1945), the renowned local naturalist and folklorist whose extensive collection of charms and amulets formed the basis of the popular Scarborough Art Gallery exhibition Fears, Foes and Faeries in 2012.

Both brothers were part of the well known local Clarke family

Both brothers were part of the well known local Clarke family – their father, also called Richard Clarke, founded the long-running Clarke’s Aerated Waters and Bottling Company Ltd in 1889.

The business was situated on North Street, and for a brief period in the late 1950s sold Scarborough Spa water, charging a shilling for a quarter pint bottle, and two shillings for one-and-a-quarter pints; however, this proved unprofitable, and the company mostly stuck to the soft drinks for which it is still fondly remembered by older Scarborians.

Richard studied, and later taught, at the renowned Art School in Scarborough founded by artist, yacht designer, sailor and writer Albert Strange in the early 1900s. He gained recognition as a watercolourist and engraver, and exhibited at London galleries and at the Royal Academy, and at the Yorkshire Art Exhibition. He was also an art teacher at Scarborough Boys’ High School, and in 1937 became the first ever president of Scarborough Art Society, which still flourishes today.

He was probably best known as a landscape painter, but seems to also have had a sideline in gently erotic nudes, of both women and men.

Gypsy Mother is part of the Scarborough Collections, the name given to all the museum objects and artworks collected by the borough over the years, and now in the care of Scarborough Museums Trust. There are three other paintings by Clarke in the collections – two pastoral scenes of Forge Valley, and a seascape of Robin Hood’s Bay. For further information, please contact Collections Manager Jennifer Dunne on jennifer.dunne@smtrust.uk.com or (01723) 384510.