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“The sea and ships are in my bones” (Frank Henry Mason)

Oil Painting of a lifeboat heading out to a distressed ship in the North Sea.
Rescue, Frank Henry Mason, 1904 (oil on canvas)

Frank Henry Mason was a highly skilled, largely self-taught artist. Influenced by a lifetime of working and living by the sea in North East England, he is best known for his maritime paintings of harbours, coastal views and vessels at sea.

Frank Henry Mason was born in Seaton-Carew, Hartlepool in 1875. As a boy, he worked at sea with his grandfather, before training as a navy cadet and settling on a career as a steam ship engineer, in Scarborough. Having always had an interest in drawing, he began spending time with a group of local artists who lived in the nearby fishing village of Staithes. They became known as the ‘Staithes Group’.

By 1900, Mason had become a full-time artist and the Staithes Group was thriving. They officially formed the Staithes Art Club in 1901, with over 30 members. Their paintings, often documenting local life, attracted national attention and were regularly shown in galleries and other venues until 1907, when the official group disbanded.

As well as being a member of the group and an established, well-respected artist in his own right, Mason also had a career as a commercial artist. This included illustration and Railway Art. He produced over 200 posters for the railway companies – some of the most iconic of the 20th century. These included designs for the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER), where he was one of their ‘big five’ designers.

Mason’s work was exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1902 onwards, and he was elected to the Royal Society of British Artists in 1904. He remains a celebrated artist today. As well as this work from Hartlepool Museum & Art Gallery, he has been collected and had his work on show at museums and galleries around the country, including the Imperial War Museum, the National Maritime Museum and the National Railway Museum.

Rescue is an excellent example of Mason’s maritime painting. It shows a lifeboat heading out to a distressed ship in the North Sea. Here he has expertly captured the vulnerability of the two relatively small vessels fighting to stay afloat against the backdrop of a raging and powerful sea.

See more of Frank Henry Mason’s paintings here

See Frank Henry Mason’s Saltburn-by-Sea railway poster for the LNER here

Our Tees Valley Museums Local Art and Artists: Activities is available to download here


Image courtesy of Hartlepool Borough Council