Bertram Priestman
By P. W. G. Lawson and J. A. Rennie
Published by Bradford and Hull Museums and Art Galleries, 1981


Bertram Priestman has been largely forgotten since the large memorial exhibition held after his death at the Royal Society of British Artists' premises in Suffolk Street in 1952. Yet in 1899 he was exhibiting with three other "young innovators", Henry Tonks, Philip Wilson Steer and Fred Brown, all much better-known names that his today. His standing was sufficiently high in 1909 for his paintings to be hung alongside those of Corot, Boudin and Degas. Some of the works from his mature period, both finished canvasses for exhibition and smaller studies and sketches, are masterpieces of British landscape painting.

It may be that painters like Priestman have fallen into obscurity because of the lack of interest, especially after the second world war, in the traditional approach to painting which they employed. Priestman painted from nature in the open air from an early age, following the example of his father and his uncle, the painter Arnold Priestman. The whole of his prolific and active career was dedicated to the capturing in paint of his intellectual and emotional responses to the myriad patterns, forms and colours of the physical world.

His career falls broadly into three periods; the early years of learning his craft by some training, some watching others and much practice; the mature years of consolidation when his most original and important work was done and the late years of acclaim and success as a Royal Academician. It is hoped that this exhibition will re-awaken interest in and appreciation of Bertram Priestman's approach to painting and that his efforts will again be given the recognition they deserve.

It is appropriate to consider some of the influences, artistic and cultural, which contributed towards the development of Bertram Priestman's painting. Of the artistic influences on Priestman, the most important was that of the English landscape tradition. This tradition had its roots in the 18th century, and formed a high point with the generation of Constable and Turner. It continued throughout the 19th century and beyond interpreting the English rural scene and in particular its light and atmosphere. English landscape paintings, while usually naturalistic in style, often have a pronounced, subjective element in the artist's poetic responses to rural England. Priestman had a passionate attachment to the English landscape, and was much influenced by the masters of the past, notably Constable, in his composition, colour and rendition of atmosphere. He painted many pictures in the "Constable Country" of Suffolk, on occasion painting the same subjects as Constable.

From the 18th century English society had a high regard for the rural landscape and the country way of life. The Romanticism of around 1800 with its emphasis on man's subjective response to nature strengthened this regard. The Industrial Revolution and the concomitant rapid development of cities, many over-crowded and insanitary, led to a revulsion from urban life. By the late 19th century educated English attitudes were permeated by a spiritual yearning for the countryside which was seen as epitomizing the historical spirit of the nation and all that was best in English values. The result was a revival of country architectural and decorative art styles, the building of model towns, and demand for paintings of the English rural scene. Many landscape painters directed their creativity to the analysis, synthesis and indeed hymning of the countryside. This was further enhanced by developments in philosophical and theological thought, which from the mid 19th century on were dominated by a Platonic Idealism. The resultant concept of Immanentism saw God as present everywhere and in everything in the world which was his creation.

If Priestman was most influenced by the English landscape tradition, it must be remembered that a major role in its development had been played by the landscapes of 17th century Holland. Again, during the last quarter of the 19th century, contemporary Dutch realist painters like Mauve, Troyon Israels and the Maris Brothers had a particular popularity in Britain both with painters and collectors. They in their turn had learned lessons from contrmporary events in France which by the mid 19th century was the centre of innovation in painting. The Impressionists, their precursors the Barbizon painters and the "Juste Milieu" (middle of the road) painters who married innovation with academic practice, all had a strong degree of influence here as elsewhere. British painters went to Paris to train and were fired with enthusiasm for at least some contemporary developments there. Most of them combined elements of all in their work though in landscape painting it was the influence of the Barbizon school which had most significance.

Thus it occurred that late 19th century English landscape painters adopted the naturalism of Barbizon painters like Corot and Boudin both from direct experience of their work and via the translations of the Dutch realists. They also began to paint with the freer brush strokes and heightened palette of the Impressionists. It is against this artistic and cultural backdrop that the young Priestman left his native Bradford and went to London to study painting in the late 1880s.


Bertram Priestman was born on 30th November 1868, the son of Edward and Henrietta Priestman of Moorfield, Manningham, Bradford. The family were Quakers and his father was a director of the family woollen business and a note local connoisseur of the arts. He lent paintings from his collection to Bradford City Art Gallery and served on its Consulting Committee in the 1890s.

As a Quaker Priestman was educated at the Friends' schools at Oliver's Mount, Scarborough, and at Bootham, York. He spent much of his spare time sketching and went on painting expeditions during holidays with his uncle the painter, Arnold Priestman. From 1883 to 1886 while in York he received lessons in watercolour painting from Edwin Moore eldest brother of the well-known painters, Albert and Henry Moore. He also received instruction in oil painting from a Mr Walton, who had a studio in Stonegate.

In 1886, when he left school, Priestman went on an extensive tour of Italy, Egypt and Palestine. During this tour, he visited many art galleries, and did a great deal of landscape sketching. On his return to England, he started on an engineering course at Bradford Technical College. As this was not to his taste, he joined T.C. Durham's art class. In 1888, he went to London to study for two terms at the Slade School of Art then under the direction of the French artist, Alphonse Legros (1837-1911). In 1889, he entered the studio of William Llewellyn (1858-1941) and worked both in the studio and out-of-doors at Padstow.

Priestman was only twenty when one of his paintings was first put on public display at the Liverpool Academy in 1888. The following year the Grosvenor Gallery in London showed another work but his exhibiting career really began when the Royal Academy accepted two works in their annual summer exhibition of 1890. This was quite a considerable achievement for such a young and unformed painter. "An Old Soldier from Chelsea" (Cat. No.2) and "In Dock for Repairs" were both, he noted on the stretcher of the first 'hung just above line, Room three'. The note continues in a disconsolate vein 'nothing more accepted during next six years'. "Swollen Waters" (Cat. No.l2) was to mark the end of those six years; in the meantime Priestman exhibited with the Royal Society of British Artists, held to be second
only to the Academy.

The early nineties were difficult for the young painter, living in digs in London and being without the necessary funds to make marriage to Grace Henwood a possibility. In 1891 he entered a joint printing venture with the painter and fellow Quaker, Joseph Walter West (born Hull 1860-1933) who was to become a life-long friend. A letter from West in the family archive sets out financial details of the agreement and notes that West would arrange the business and Priestman do most of the printing. A small book of plates was produced but the enterprise seems to have been short-lived. In 1892 Priestman took his own studio in Chiswick where he met Charles E Holloway (1838-1897). Holloway was noted for his east coast seascapes and his robust, direct method with the use of rich colour and broad brushstroke set an important example to the young painter.

At this time Priestman was concentrating very much on Marines. His earliest painting seen here shows an overriding concern with the primaeval force of the elements (Cat. No.1) and this continues in a group of works painted at Gorlestone, Great Yarmouth and exhibited at the RBA in 1891/3 and elsewhere, (Cat. No.7). By 1893, the year of his election to the RBA, Priestmans paintings were attracting favourable critical comment and the power and originality of such paintings as "A Blizzard at Sea" and "From Upland to Lowland, Lowland to Sea" was readily noted. French influence, already apparent in the realistic "An Old Soldier from Chelsea" (Cat.No.2) and the impressionistic "Grace in a Kentish Orchard" (Cat. No.4) is also found in his marine subjects. "The Pleasure Boat" "A Hazy Day on the Rochester River" and "The Arethusa" (Cat. Nos. 8, 9, 11) are reminiscent of similar subjects by Boudin, Daubigny and Monet, both in composition and handling. The two small works have the pointed, feathery brushstroke found in Boudin's work as does "East Anglian Marshes" (Cat. No.6); "A Hazy Day on the Rochester River" was called both Turneresque and Impressionistic and lead the Times Critic to comment "Mr Priestman is, we suppose, an Impressionist".

In 1894 Priestman began exhibiting at the New English Art Club, of which he was elected a member in 1897. Painters working "in the French style" and at odds with the policies of the Royal Academy, had been showing at the NEAC since its foundation in 1885. "At Work on the Land", sold to a Chicago business man, was one of the first to be seen there, ironically because it has a strong dutch rather than french flavour. It was in fact painted at Frindsbury and "Landscape with Windmill" (Cat. No.13) is a similar composition. A very fine painting reminiscent of Whistler was exhibited there in 1895, called "Waiting for the Ferry" (untraced). Whistler's influence can also be found in the earlier "Sister Maud" and "Grace" (Cat.Nos. 5, 10). Priestman was a life-long admirer of Whistler and became a member of the International Society which Whistler was instrumental in founding in 1898.

Priestman made his first trip to Holland in 1895, the year of his marriage to Grace Henwood. He painted in and around Dordrecht and Monckendam and a group of works here show some of the results
(Cat. Nos. 14-17). He also met the painter William Marts whose rural scenes of people with farmyard animals and cattle were to have a profound influence on Priestman. He returned to England and made numerous studies of cattle and other animals noticeably in the grounds of The Great Lodge, in Essex. His subsequent paintings combined animals with his much-loved water and three of them, "Under the Chestnuts" (See note, Cat. No. 20), "Evening" and "Under the Willows" were bought by the most eminent British Collectors of Barbizon and Modern Dutch paintings. The first two were bought by James Staats-Forbes, the third by Alexander Young. While experimenting with this new subject matter Priestman did not neglect his marine painting. "Hulks at the Water's Edge" (Cat. No.3) can be seen as the first of a series of large marines of the 1890s in which the pathetic grandeur of old or abandoned battleships is captured. "Peace", of 1895 (destroyed) and "Ebb Tide" of 1896 show the enormous forms of old battleships their masts shrouded in mist and cut off half-way up by the top of the picture. Less grandiose variants of this type are found in "Schooner by a Quayside" and "The Boatbuilder's Yard" (Cat. Nos. 18, 30) and a sketch made during Priestman's second dutch tour in 1898 is also related to these compositions (Cat. No.22). An important forerunner of some of the most original paintings of Priestman's mature period is found in these years. "Bradford, From Moorfield" (Cat. No.l9) traces for the first time a type of composition which, uniting the glories of nature with the modern industrial landscape, was to bring him much deserved acclaim in the 1910s.

By the late 1890s Priestman has a reputation as a young innovator whose paintings always showed a readiness to experiment and an open-mindedness about the solution of pictorial problems. "He has provided himself with a set of principles that are susceptible of adaptation to the treatment of the widest range of materials" wrote A.L. Baldry in the Studio magazine of 1898. Personal happiness continued in these years for Priestman, for he and Grace were starting their family which was finally to consist of five children, Bryan, Barbara, Ursula, Erica and Monica. A charmingly direct painting "Sandcastles' (Cat. No.31) records this happiness on a family holiday in Scotland with Bryan and Barbara on the sands.

Although it was "skied" (hung high up) at the Academy, "The Watering Place; evening" was a tremendous success at the Academy of 1900 (Cat. No. 26). It combined dutch composition and trench technique both moderated enough to appeal to a general audience. It established Priestman as a cattle-painter and commercial demands necessitated the production of similar compositions. "Valley Pastures" (Cat.No.28) was bought by W.H. Aykroyd JP of Ripon who became an important friend as well as patron of the artist. Priestman was now being hung next to the Maris Brothers, who had inspired his cattle painting, at the Goupil gallery. He represented Britain, with Peppercorn and Clausen, alongside Corot, Jongkind and the Maris Brothers there in 1901, which demonstrates the standing he had attained. Critics noted his ability to retain the freshness of the sketch from nature in his finished paintings and also praised his recognition of the pictorial spell of the english pastoral scene.

A group of works shown here of 1901/4 shows Priestman's most experimental style of this period (Cat. Nos. 29, 32, 33, 35, 38). A particularly broad brushstroke whose form plays a large part in the compositions explains why at this time Priestman was called a "smeary school" painter, though "better to be rough in execution than tame and Spiritless" as one of his admiring critics pointed out.

Priestman*s work during these early years is extremely diverse. As Baldry says he had the facility for trying any means to achieve the effect he desired. He used a realistic approach for one subject and a romantic even melodramatic approach for another. He had, after all, been learning his trade. He was very aware of the abstract suggestions of the physical world around him and a strong sense of compositional design developed steadily throughout these years. Priestman was at once an innovator and a traditionalist; this twin stance was to be his also throughout the mature period.


"Priestman may paint again, in fat prairies, the wandering or ruminating kine. Very likely. And no good judge of Modern Art would have reason to be sorry for it. But I know that he is certain to paint again – to paint with ever increasing interest, and at least with nothing less than his present quietly-possessed mastery – the harbour and the ship, the bridge and the canal boat; the Sussex Downs where, in mid-storm, in some hollow or "bottom", the trees have a shelter from the wind, and the grey church nestles. Nor can he stop painting – for he has painted nobly already, with a zest and brio altogether apparent – the great marine horizons, the cloud borne up from the West, the stretch of (dreary waters, and, as it bears down on the victim shore it so entirely possesses, the force and gathered impetus of the voluminous sea"'
(F. Wedmore, Art Journal 1907)

It is arguable that between the years of 1905, when he was taking on the responsibilities of executive member of the International Society, and 1923, the year of his election to full Royal Academician, that Priestman produced his most original and important contributions to painting. In 1905 he was aged 37 years. He was responsible for the hanging of the International Society's big Manchester exhibition and was congratulated for a better arrangement than that at the New Gallery, London, where the exhibition had previously shown. He was also a moving force in the formation that year of the Society of 25 artists with Mark Fisher, William Lee-Hankey and William Llewellyn. From that year also dates "Cement Works on the Medway" (Cat. No.39) which has a grandly decorative quality unusual in Priestman's work. He did indeed continue to produce cattle paintings; "Watermeadows of France" (Cat. No.46) was painted from sketches made at Montreuil-Sur-Mer during visits to France in 1903 and 1906. But as Wedmore intimates, Priestman's creative talents were to develop in less commercially-acceptable areas. In 1907 the Royal Academy started exhibiting his paintings again and by 1909 Wedmore was publically advocating Priestman for the next Associate of the Royal Acadmy. Priestman was now exhibiting alongside such masters as Boudin, Corot and Degas at the Goupil Gallery.

Between the years 1909-1913 Priestman produced a most fascinating body of work of great variety, vitality and freshness. Having giving up the time-consuming responsibilities of executive member of the I.S., he took a studio at Walberswick and this seems to have had an invigorating effect on him. The work he produced although not easily categorised seems to fall into several main groups.

Some of the paintings have great delicacy and surprising breadth considering their small scale. The naturalism of "Southwold Beach", "Ketch" and "Walberswick Harbour" (Cat. Nos. 49, 56, 63) is tempered with a strong realisation of the abstract forms of nature. In "Lelant" (Cat. No.62) we find an obvious pleasure in the simplified forms which the moored yachts present. There are also undisguisedly "French" paintings (Cat. Nos. 50, 69) and the influence of the francophile Wilson Steer is found in the 1910 study of his wife and in the Cowes paintings of 1912. A group of small oil sketches of 1910 show Priestman's enjoyment in capturing the creamy light which falls through dark foliage on to shallow patches of water and again underline his response to nature's abstract qualities (Cat.Nos. 52-55).The broadness and fluency of these paintings is found also in studies of the high skies over Wareham and Walberswick (Cat. Nos. 58, 59) and indicate a developing interest in the speciality of sky painting.

His love of the sombre lights of dusk is seen in a number of works shown here of 1906 onwards. The paintings "Rye" "Walberswick with Cows" and "Shoreham Old Bridge" of the 1909/13 period continue to show this particular response (Cat. Nos. 48, 64, 66). There began in this period also a series of works which were to establish Priestman firmly as a painter of modern masterpieces. Three sketches of Bradford (Cat. Nos. 51, 60, 61) are the re-workings of an idea Priestman had as far back as 1897 (Cat. No.19). "Outskirts of a Northern City" now in Toronto, "shows that beauty, broadly understood, is not invariably destroyed by the presence of tall chimneys and the association of modern labour with ancient country peace", as Wedmore put it. The painting was the most popular and acclaimed work in the 1911 Academy exhibition and was shown widely before it went abroad. It captures Bradford seen from near Esholt across the Shipley Valley, though the Yorkshire Post critic understood its universality in its combining "the dusty glory of human toil with the forgiving fairness of a green countryside". "Sunset and Smoke on the Rochester River" of 1912 (Cat.No.71) treats the industry of the sea in the same way.

The last of this triumvate was "The Heart of the West Riding" of 1916 which again showed a view Priestman's native town. We are able to exhibit sketches for this painting as well as the finished work (Cat. Nos. 79, 80, 84) and there are also a number of pencil studies extant. These three paintings are amongst the most important and original works Priestman produced. They combine the realism of the modern industrial scene with a romantic view of the unity of the man-made and God-made landscape. This attitude to the modern world was one with which Priestman was very much in agreement. As A.S. Baldry commented "He had a high ideal and a very sincere intention to be true to it dominates him."

During the war years Priestman moved his family to the safety of Starbottom in Wharfedale. The village was a constant motif in his oil and pencil sketches of the period and it is easy to forget the turmoils of 1915 when we see the idyllic "The Ash tree-evening" and "Starbottom" (Cat. Nos. 81, 82). Priestman celebrated the village in the highly successful "Hill-bound Village" of 1917 (Cat.No. 88). He was confronting for the first time the problems of painting a mountain landscape, though the inspired works of 1917-1918 (Cat. Nos. 86-92) show his positive and relaxed response. These paintings, along with the "modern world" paintings already mentioned, belong to a group of majestic landscapes which were to lead to his being elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1918.

Yet equally important to us today are the smaller works of the mature period. In these works is found the indubitable evidence, were any needed, of Priestman's unfailing dedication to capturing in paint the ever-changing colours and forms of nature. Through their modest scale, their spontaneity and their freshness, they allow us to come closest to the spirit of the Artist, a spirit most communicative of the myriad emotional and intellectual responses the visual world allows us.

After peace was declared the Priestmans returned to Suffolk. The artist finished two more important Wharfedale landscapes in his Walberswick studio, "The Becks of Beckermonds" and "His Majesty's Mail, Kilnsey Crag" (Cat. Nos. 94,98). He also produced an important war memorial, "Home" of 1921. This returns to the qualities of his paintings of hulks and battleships of the 1890's. It can be seen as a tribute, not only to the men who were lost in the war, but also to their great vessels, of which Priestman was so fond. (Cat. No. 100).

The resumation of normal life and peaceful times is celebrated in a group of works of the early 1920's. "A Suffolk Valley", "Lock on the Waveney" and "The Heart of Suffolk" show Priestman's pleasure at his return to the watery flats of eastern England (Cat.Nos. 97. 105 -107). "The Great Dutch Waterway" of 1922, painted at Walberswick, seems to have been based on earlier studies of Holland as no preparatory works for it are extant (Cat. No.l04). For another sky painting of the following year, Priestman picked the unusual subject of a Scottish scene in "Gairloch Bridge, Ross-Shire" (Cat. No. 108). When it was hung at the Academy the critics hailed the artist as a modern Constable and it was shortly after that that Priestman's election to full Royal Academician was announced.


On June 27 1923 the morning papers announced that Bertram Priestman had been elected a Royal Academician, one of the youngest of the time. A scrapbook which the Artist kept contains the many letters of congratulations which poured in from friends and associates. "You must learn to curb your wild reckless manner... a calm dignity you must now cultivate" was the affectionate comment of Philip Connard, a good friend, whom Priestman had outstripped in the Academicians ballot by 33 votes to 8 "Good wishes for long life, power to the elbow..." wrote George Clausen RA. "Let me use my last sheet of engraved note paper to convey my hearty congratulations..." wrote Joseph Walter West, one of Priestman's closest friends. It was with boyish pleasure that the 55 year old Artist now posed for photographs in his specially tailored Royal Academician's court dress.

Priestman moved his family to Chiswick in 1924 and began painting portraits. In the Academy exhibition of 1925 he exhibited three, most notably that of his daughter Erica. This was extremely successful and led to his quickly becoming a much sought-after portrait painter; people would literally knock on his door and ask if he would let them sit for him. Always a sociable person, Priestman enjoyed meeting people and he quickly found that it was far easier to make a living through portraits than through landscape painting.

Public duties crowded in on him. In 1922 he had been elected President of both the Ilkley and Ipswich Art Clubs; as a new Royal Academician he was now called upon to give lectures and after-dinner speeches. He was a regular speaker at meetings of the Suffolk Preservation Society and served on the hanging committees of both the Royal and Liverpool Academies. These duties made it necessary for him to formulate his personal philosophy of Art and this he did in a long essay delivered as a lecture in 1925 called "Art as Inspiration" Music had always been a great love of Priestman's and he began by comparing music with painting. He used the example of Whistler, who had been an important formative influence, to point out the analogies between the delicate, varied tones of painting and the subtle secondary themes to be heard in a fine piece of music.

Priestman professed strong sympathy with the attitudes of Constable and Van Gogh because of their patent humility before nature. Like them he felt that the painter should study the natural world with eye and brush, constantly seeking to capture in paint the essence of a fleeting moment. Nature would then suggest a path to explore. Priestman's approach was the same as that of the Neo-Classic painter Reynolds. "The best reproduction of nature must at best be a poor thing" he said, so that the artist should use "the most expressive trees... the finest clouds" in his composition. The resultant painting would allow the spectator "to gain in vision and love of nature... Art teaches us to see more and to see better."

Though the 1920s were somewhat dominated by his new role as portrait painter, Priestman did not neglect his landscape painting as the gentle and grave "Biythbrough from Henham" (Cat. No.ll2) shows. Increasingly he now concentrated his efforts on painting the sky. "He delights in skies half veiled by dense masses of moving cloud" wrote the Yorkshire Post critic in 1923. Two paintings of 1929 indicate why Sir Frank Brangwyn hailed Priestman as "The finest sky-painter of our time." "Kilnsey Crag, Wharfedale" and "Thunderclouds Breaking Up" (Cat. Nos. 120, 121) present us with skies painted in the grand manner, full of atmosphere and movement. Another glorious sky is found in his very popular 1930 Royal Academy exhibit, "The Aquitania Coming up Southampton Water". The painting shown here was specially commissioned after the success of the original, painted for Arthur Pierce of Boston and now in the Peabody Museum of Salem. The immensity and power of the great liner as it steams majestically up river is admirably captured by Priestman. In 1930 it carried an exhibition of British paintings to America to be sold in aid of Prince George's Fund for the British Legion and several of Priestman's paintings were included.

Unlike his friend Walter West who enjoyed talking at length about theoretical matters concerning painting, Priestman always took a pragmatic approach to art as he did to everything which concerned him. He wrote a series of articles for "The Artist" in 1933 which outlined in detail his methods of painting. In the first article he outlines his approach to painting a landscape "When once you have seen something that has impressed you, if only for a moment, the seed has been sown and it is for you to nourish it carefully until it is brought to maturity. The artist should make an oil sketch on the spot noting as truly as possible the first impression of the motif. If without paints a pencil sketch should be made, a sort of diagram with the various tonal areas numbered from light to dark. The artist should return again to his motif to make further studies at a time when the light conditions are as near as possible to those when the impression struck." Priestman then advocated working up the final design for the finished painting, making such alterations from the previous sketches as will help the pictorial value of the composition. "All is then ready for the great effort... get your mind in tune with the effect you are going to paint; use all the imagination you possess and feel again as you paint your first inspiration..." Two subsequent articles were denoted to the painting of skies; and three more talked about the painting of water, of trees and of boats and buildings. The articles gave instructions on how to look at the landscape and discern its most general forms and on how one should then go about painting it. They also included notes on Priestman's palette and medium, the suitability of various types of brushes and supports and an interesting piece on how to decide how much enlargement a particular oil-sketch can take.

This series of articles reveals a lot about Priestman's very down-to-earth approach to painting, an approach which made him an excellent teacher. He had taken pupils from 1903 when he founded the Camsix Club; from 1913 he began his annual summer schools at Brading on the Isle of Wight and in the twenties and thirties he taught at Barfield and Felsted in Essex and at Walberswick and Snape in Suffolk. One young boy to whom Priestman gave especial help is now better-known than he is; this was Edward Seago who when he was thirteen was inspired by a talk Priestman gave in Ipswich and determined to become a painter.

In the 1920s Priestman had explored watercolour painting for the first time, mainly due to demand from the Fine Art Society where he held several one-man and group exhibitions. This may in part be the reason for the lightening and brightening of his palette in much of his work after 1925. The fast-growing colour printing trade was quick to take up the commercial possibilities of this late work and firms like Bemrose of Derby would acquire paintings and their copyright from the Academy exhibitions. Priestman's paintings were also in demand as book illustrations. In 1931 he painted a number of motifs which Constable made famous for the book "The Constable Country a hundred years after". In 1933 "Pinmill, Suffolk" (Cat. No.l36) was reproduced as a limited edition of one hundred signed copies. The low horizon of Harwich Harbour was a new motif to Priestman when he made at least three paintings of it in 1930 and 1936 (Cat. Nos. 125, 133). This wide estuary with its constantly moving vessels allowed Priestman to continue his exploration of sky painting. Another lowland landscape which he favoured was that of Holland. In a series of works commencing in 1931 he returned to the subject he had first captured over thirty years before, the landscape around Monckendam Church (Cat. No.l4) "Peace and Passing Clouds" painted for the Quaker Retreat in York showed the Maas and its vessels below the church. "The wide waters of the Maas" of 1932, "Poplars on the Maas" of 1933 (Cat. No.128) and "Clearing after Rain, Holland" also of 1933 featured the same stretch of waters, the same favoured poplars and the same tiny silhouette of Monckendam Church. Subsequent paintings of the same subject were made in 1935 (Cat. Nos.130, 131) and in 1939 he used the Maas and its church once more in a panel commissioned for a Bournemouth Hotel. In this series of works Priestman made the first of a series of tributes to motifs which had inspired him in his formative years.

In 1940 he moved to Crowborough in Sussex and remained there for the rest of his life. His Academy exhibit of that year "The Flood Tide" shows the same view of Walberswick harbour as seen in his 1911 painting (Cat. No.63) but in this later version the sky is overhung with threatening clouds. He was by now an old man but he continued to paint and also spent much time writing an autobiography, now sadly lost. A series of paintings of the early 1940s return to the subjects which had led to Priestman's success after his dutch visits of the 1890s, those of light-flecked english pastures with watering cattle. In 1943 his "Sunset in the West Riding" at the Academy showed the same composition as his oil-sketch of 1909 (Cat. No. 61) which had pre-figured the great successes of around the first world war. There was one big retrospective exhibition of Priestman's work in 1948 when Priestman was eighty, held in his home town at Cartwright Hall. After his death a memorial exhibition at the Royal Society of British Artists was opened by Sir Gerald Kelly, P.R.A. on 19th July 1952, but since then his work has received little attention. It is hoped that this present exhibition will do justice to Bertram Priestman's lifetimes dedication to painting and that it will show how near he could come to capturing what he called "the inexpressible perfection and triumphant splendour of nature".