John Thornton to launch new works of land & sea at Kentmere House Gallery on June 1

Across A Field To The Sea, by John Thornton

JOHN Thornton’s new exhibition, Across The Fields To The Sea, opens at Kentmere House Gallery, Scarcroft Hill, York, on June 1.

“John is everyone’s favourite painter,” says gallery owner and curator Ann Petherick. “I’m delighted he has produced a new and exciting collection of paintings of woodlands and meadows and the occasional seascape, inspired by his travels in Yorkshire since the end of Covid.”

Born in York in 1944, John moved to Selby at the age of eight. He spent three years in Cornwall in his 20s, retaining a deep affection for that county, then moved to London for five years, since when he has lived and worked in Selby.

In the 1970s, John made leather clothing to sell in London’s King’s Road, but for most of his life he has made his living working in wood: carving, renovating carousel horses and making and repairing furniture.

John Thornton at work in his studio

This involvement with the creative process was combined with a life-long interest in painting. Come March 2004, he made the bold decision to paint full-time.

He experiments continually with painting media, using acrylic, watercolour gouache and ink, mixed with elements such as sand to create the textures in his paintings and to enable the materials to run and bleed into each other.

John has always had a love of the sea, leading him to produce seascapes that capture its constant changes in nature and mood. Visits to Cornwall, or the coast around Scarborough and Whitby that especially fascinates him, provide endless inspiration, as well as materials collected while beachcombing to be incorporated in his works.

He uses photographs as reference material, particularly to observe the effect of light on water, but otherwise works from brief sketches and memory.

Allerthorpe Wood, near Pocklington, by John Thornton

In addition, he has begun to paint woodland scenes, especially of the nature reserves at Askham Bog, on the outskirts of York, and Skipwith Common, near Selby.

“Painting for me is not only about pleasure; it is also a challenge to create a piece that reflects and captures the essence of a subject,” says John. “If people can sense and appreciate those aspects of my work, I feel that I have in part achieved my intention.”

In 2001, he entered the Leeds Open Exhibition and Ferens Gallery Open Exhibition in Hull, both for the first time, becoming one of five prize winners in Hull. He has since shown regularly at both venues.

In 2003, John made his Royal Society of Marine Artists debut at the Mall Galleries in London, where his work has been accepted for display each year since then, leading to his invitation to become a member. In addition, he exhibits with galleries in Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire and Wiltshire.

Blue Sky, Green Sea, by John Thornton

“It was in 2001 at the Ferens Gallery that I first spotted his work,” says Ann Petherick. “He has been showing at Kentmere House since 2002 and is one of our most successful artists.

“He took part in Northern Colour, an exhibition organised by Kentmere House at Newby Hall, near Ripon, where he was the best-selling artist. All this has provided a well-deserved boost to his confidence and persuaded him to continue experimenting with different techniques and subject matters.”

John’s work is permanently on show at Kentmere House Gallery and is in the University of York collection, and elsewhere he has exhibited at Scarborough Art Gallery, Zillah Bell Gallery, Thirsk, Chantry House Gallery, Ripley, King’s Manor, York, Castle Howard, Godfrey & Watt, Harrogate, Langwith College, York, Doncaster Art Gallery and Selby Town Hall.

Kentmere House Gallery is open on the first weekend of each month, including June 1 and 2, from 11am to 5pm; every Thursday, from 6pm to 9pm, and at any other time by appointment on 01904 656507 or 07801 810825. “Best to ring first if travelling any distance,” advises Ann.