Picturing the lie of the land

Sheffield central library exhibition of work by Yorkshire landscape artist Stanley Royle. curatorial services manager Sian Brown.
Sheffield central library exhibition of work by Yorkshire landscape artist Stanley Royle. curatorial services manager Sian Brown.

One of Sheffield’s most popular home-grown artists is celebrated at the Graves Gallery with the first major retrospective in almost 30 years.

The Great Outdoors – Paintings by Stanley Royle explores the long career of the post impressionist landscape painter who lived from 1888 to 1961, drawing on Sheffield’s extensive collection of his paintings, the largest in the country.

Many of the pictures depict local scenes along with examples produced during his time in Canada and trips to other parts of Britain in his later years.

Although born across the Pennines in Stalybridge, Stanley Royle quickly became an adopted son of Sheffield. He was five when the family moved to Ecclesfield where his father was appointed stationmaster.

He attended Sheffield School of Art and went to work as an illustrator and designer for Sheffield newspapers. In 1911 he began exhibiting professionally and two years later had three works accepted by the Royal Academy.

He went on to depict many stunning scenes of the city and surrounding countryside, capturing a landscape which he felt was threatened by industrialisation.

Despite his popularity as a painter and teaching part-time he struggled to make a living. In 1931 Royle moved with his wife and daughter to Canada to escape the Depression, joining the staff of art schools in Nova Scotia and later, New Brunswick.

There he found inspiration in the dramatic landscape. He returned to Britain in 1945 and continued to paint prolifically, exploring on a motorbike, which he had specially adapted to accommodate his canvasses and paint box.

“He was influenced by the French Impressionists and always liked to paint in the outdoors rather than make sketches to work on in a studio,” says Sian Brown, Curatorial Services Manager at Museums Sheffield. Sponsored by Sheffield solicitors Taylor & Emmet LLP, The Great Outdoors – Paintings by Stanley Royle ranges from The Farmyard, produced in 1914 to his last ever painting, Mevagissey, Cornwall, made in 1960.

“The paintings on show are mostly from our own collection which includes a bequest from his daughter, Jean,” says the curator. “For this show his grandchildren, Lucy and Anthea, have lent us some works along with photographs and his paintbox.

“The only loan from outside is a painting of Mayfield Valley in the Thirties. It is from a quartet of views of Sheffield he was commissioned to do in 1920 and which were offered to the city at a time when it couldn’t afford to purchase them. One was sold privately and eventually the other three came to the collection in the 1950s.

“We never knew where the fourth was until we began working on the show and the owner got to hear of it and contacted us. So the quartet are being exhibited for the first time in 80 years.” 

The Great Outdoors opens at the Graves Gallery on Saturday and runs to May 30 2015.