Ossett - the history of a Yorkshire town



Mark Senior (1862-1927) - Ossett Artist

Mark SeniorIn 2007, if you had £6,950 to spare, you could buy "The Trees, Runswick" an oil painting, just 11" x 9" in size, by Ossett artist Mark Senior. Senior was a member of the Staithes Group of artists who sought their inspiration in the everyday lives of fisherfolk in the isolated communities of the North Yorkshire coast. After many years of being unfashionable, the unfashionable is now very fashionable and there is a strong demand, especially in Yorkshire for Senior's paintings. In 2007 another picture by Senior called "Breezy Day" was sold by Bonhams in Retford for £18,000. Interestingly, Leeds City Art Gallery comment that they have local work on display by the "less than impressive Mark Senior". In later years, Senior became dissatisfied with his early work and actively bought it back to destroy it.

Mark Senior was a well-known Yorkshire post-Impressionist artist and teacher who was born in Hanging Heaton, Batley in 1862, but lived all his life in Ossett after marrying Alice Brook, the daughter of Ossett mungo manufacturer Thomas Brook in 1886. Mark Senior and Alice moved from Dewsbury to live at Fieldhead House in Ossett in 1892, the same year that his picture "Eventide" was exhibited at the Royal Academy. Senior had many more paintings exhibited at the Royal Academy and at the National Portrait Society's exhibitions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although Mark Senior was never at the forefront of English art, his vividly coloured views of Runswick Bay in North Yorkshire helped to define further the rural schools of post-Impressionism and assure him a place in the history of art in Yorkshire. In his lifetime Mark Senior achieved recognition in his native, much-loved Yorkshire and was able to number among his friends some of the leading artists of his day, such as Philip Wilson Steer, Frank Brangwyn, James McNeill Whistler and William Orpen. However, within a few years of Senior's death in 1927, he had faded into relative obscurity like his lifelong friend Sir George Clausen RA (1852-1944). Clausen was always recognised by Senior as a formative influence and the "Yorkshire Post" critic in appraisal of Senior's work after his death in 1927 recognised this debt; to him Senior:

. . . "had the same love of English landscape and of English peasant types, touching them with a glamour of fantasy, which made him less interested in them as concrete individualities than as types . . . He was certainly entitled to the comparatively rare description of a colourist, for there was never any false note in his colour schemes, which to the end of his career, grew in richness and prismatic quality sunlight can give."

 

Eventide by Mark Senior

Above: "Eventide" by Mark Senior. The first picture he had exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1892.

Early Years:
Mark Senior, a Yorkshireman through-and-through, was born in Hanging Heaton in 1862, a small village on the outskirts of Batley in West Yorkshire at the heart of the woollen industry. Benjamin Senior, his father, was a blanket maker and his mother, Amy Senior nee Ward, came from an established woollen manufacturing family. It was not a promising start in life for an artist. He was one of seven children. From the 1871 census we learn that Mark and his younger sister Emma were brought up in the household of their maternal grandfather George Ward, an elderly widower and retired woollen manufacturer. They lived at Ward's Buildings, Soothill; next door lived Mark's parents, his half brothers George Milnes, a butcher and Charles Milnes, a cloth finisher and his three brothers; William Edward, a millhand; Tom, a cloth finisher and Harry, the youngest child, born in 1869. Viewed against this background, it can be seen that Mark Senior's choice of career was a decision which must have required great strength of character and confidence in his own ability.

Senior was educated at the school of George Pyrah in Batley. Pyrah was renowned as a strict disciplinarian who administered draconian punishments to unruly pupils. In about 1880, Senior took the first steps towards his future career when he gained admission to the local school of art in Wakefield, whose headmaster at that time was John Swire. Swire's work was typical of Victorian studio painting; he portrayed dramatically lit subjects imbued with a romantic didacticism. Here, Senior received a traditional art education, which laid particular emphasis on drawing from classical casts rather than from life. In 1881, he received the Mayor's Prize for the second best shaded figure from a cast. However, It is said that he was later expelled for dressing the skeleton in a shroud. True or not, this story displays a truly defiant gesture against conservative traditions of the provincial art school which Senior was to leave behind in favour of the freedom of expression and social realism which he found in contemporary French art.

Isaac Faulkner Bird, an accomplished but conservative portraitist who had retired to Cowper Street, Leeds in 1861, taught Senior portrait painting. Bird achieved moderate success in the South showing fourteen portraits at the Royal Academy between 1826 and 1861. His influence is most apparent in Senior's portrait of Alice Brook, who later became his wife.

Alice Brook
Mark Senior and Alice Brook came from similar backgrounds. Alice's father Thomas Brook was a wealthy manufacturer of mungo who enjoyed considerable local standing in Ossett. The couple were married in January 1886 at the Brook family church, the New Wesleyan Chapel, Ossett. They settled in Ossett, the town which was to remain their home for the next forty years. Mark Senior took an active part in local activities and was a leading member of the Cricket Club attached to the Chapel. Alice's independent income allowed the family to enjoy a reasonable standard of living without being wholly dependent on the precarious living afforded to the professional artist. The couple had four children: Harold Brook Senior b. 1886; Mary Vere Senior b. 1887; George Senior b. 1889 and Helena Senior b. 1890.

Mark Senior and Family at Runswick Bay

Above: Mark Senior with his wife Alice and family at Runswick Bay, North Yorkshire circa 1893.

The Staithes Group
In the 1890s, Mark Senior established a pattern which was to govern the rest of his working life. Around Easter, the whole family would pack and remove itself to Runswick Bay on the North Yorkshire coast, until October. Here they initially rented a small cottage, but later, in 1919, a larger cottage "Hillside" was built by Senior on land purchased from Gertrude Hudson, one of Senior's pupils. The children attended the local school until the family's return to Ossett. During the winter months, Senior commuted daily by train to his studio in Leeds and occasionally returned to Runswick Bay to paint winter landscapes. With the coming of the railway, the area around Staithes became a magnet for artists like Mark Senior and the unique beauty of the area attracted numerous artists who became known as the Staithes Group of artists.

The 'plein air' techniques advocated by the Impressionists led to the formation of several small rural painting communities, each setting out to study from nature. One such group was centred around the unspoilt fishing villages of the North Yorkshire coast. Laura Knight gave expression to the artist's fascination with these villages in her autobiography. "Oil and Greasepaint":

. . . "You could not turn your head without seeing something you wanted to put on canvas, here was material for a landscape painter, a sea painter, a figure painter . . . There was every range of colour and intensity of light and dark from the shadowy crowded alleyway to the spread of the sea."

Runswick Bay provided plentiful models who would sit for a farthing an hour to eke out a meagre income. The landscape was dramatic and the divisions between the seasons quite distinct. Together with Gilbert Foster (Head of Leeds School of Art), Senior was one of the first artists to work at Runswick Bay. Others followed, including James William Booth, Rowland Henry Hill, Frederick William Jackson, John Spence Ingall and Harold and Laura Knight, but it is Mark Senior who will always be associated with Runswick Bay. Mark Senior would clean his brushes on the walls of his studio, leaving vestiges of the luminous blue paint (seen in so many of his paintings) which remain as physical evidence of his status as the painter of Runswick Bay.

Mark Senior at work

Above: Mark Senior at work at Runswick Bay.

Training and the Continent
Although many of his contemporaries chose to complete their training in Paris where a plethora of new techniques and theories provided an exciting and stimulating environment in contrast to the dry academicism of British art, Mark Senior preferred to remain in his native Yorkshire. He kept abreast of developments in European art by frequent trips across the Channel and by attending occasional classes at the Slade School of Art in London. The opportunities which the modern teaching methods of the Slade offered must have been particularly refreshing to Senior, nurtured on the traditional theories of art education espoused in the provinces, for although a heavy emphasis was placed on drawing and technical proficiency, live models were employed and the Impressionist practice of painting from nature emerged. Alphonse Legros, Professor at the Slade from 1875 to 1892 brought with him a practical understanding of the French 'Realist' movement and in particular the work of Millet. It was, however, to Philip Wilson Steer only two years his senior, that Mark Senior was most indebted. Steer was appointed to teach painting at the Slade in 1895. He became a close friend of Mark Senior and the Senior family participated in Steer's painting trips to Walberswick in Suffolk.

Away to the Sea by Mark Senior

Above: "Away to the Sea" by Mark Senior exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1911.

Before the First World War brought an end to travel in Europe, Senior undertook several trips to Germany and Belgium where he met artists like Max Liebermann and George Sauter. In Bruges, a city steeped in its own artistic tradition, Senior met Frank Brangwyn who held summer schools in his native town in 1906 and 1908, and whilst painting one of the canals in Bruges, he met sculptor Alfred Gilbert. Gilbert was impressed with Senior's method of working "in pure colour on canvas". A friendship developed between the two artists and it is plain from Gilbert's correspondence with Senior that he was profoundly grateful for the financial assistance and commissions, which Senior obtained from him, as well as the moral support he provided. It was through Senior's offices that Gilbert received the commission from Ossett-born worsted manufacturer Samuel Wilson, one of Senior's wealthy patrons, for the bronze chimney piece, now part of the Sam Wilson Collection of Leeds City Art Gallery (for more details on Sam Wilson see The Ossett Wilsons to Leeds). In 1908, Senior was accompanied by two of his pupils, Florence Hess and Gertrude Hudson on a trip to Bruges.

Senior the Man
Mark Senior was noted among his fellow artists for his generosity. Rowland Henry Hill wrote of him "Mark Senior was one of the men for whom everybody had a great deal of affection and he often helped his fellow painters in a practical way. He had a generous nature and would often go out of his way to help a man." A gregarious character, Senior frequented Clubs and on trips to London, he would visit the Chelsea Arts Club, where he was signed in by both Whistler and Steer. The Chelsea Arts Club, formed in 1891 for the group of artists working around Chelsea, was patronised by leading artists of the day including Clausen, Sickert and Brangwyn.

In Leeds, he belonged to the Exchange Club, the Leeds Studio Club where he met men like Frank Rutter, the curator of Leeds Art Gallery, the Leeds Liberal Club, the Leeds Art Club of which he was a founder member and the Leeds Savage Club. The latter was formed in 1898 by a group meeting at Owen Bowen's studio and was based on the London Club of the same name, founded by Richard Savage in 1857. Edmund Bogg was the Chief Savage and he explained the essence of the Club as the . . . "gathering together of kindred spirits typical of the Bohemians for convivial and congenial amusement and recreation." The Club had about fifty members drawn from the art world of Leeds. Edmund Bogg owned a picture-framing workshop behind the studio at 3 Woodhouse Lane and acted as a dealer and picture-framer for Mark Senior.

It is a measure of Senior's financial security that when Bogg died, he did not feel the need to find another dealer. Florence Hess, Mark Senior's most notable pupil, was directed by another Savage Club member, Owen Bowen, to Senior as a portrait painter and teacher in 1905. The Savage Club met in the studios of its members or in local cafes at 'Pow-Wows'. Senior held one such 'Pow-Wow' at his Cookridge Street studio and was also listed as one of the Savages on an invitation to a 'Pow-Wow' in 1921 to mark the reformation of the Club after a seven year lapse.

Florence Hess

Above: A portrait by Mark Senior of his most notable pupil, Miss Florence Hess. The portrait was commissioned by her parents in 1911 when she was 20 years of age. Senior's fee was 112.

Senior the Teacher
Little is known of Mark Senior's work as a teacher. Although not recorded as a full-time teacher at the Leeds School of Art, there is evidence to suggest that he undertook some teaching duties at the school. He was better known for the tuition he gave to individual pupils, more often than not, the daughters of his wealthy patrons. With Florence Hess, Senior had a particularly close friendship; their relationship developed from that of pupil and teacher to that of personal assistant and artist.

Whereas Senior's influence on Florence Hess is apparent in many of her works, which have been widely exhibited and illustrated, there is very little work by his other well-known pupil, Gertrude Hudson, to make any accurate assessment possible. However, sketches done in 1923 do show her working in a similar style to Mark Senior. The Hudson and Senior families were also linked by the marriage in 1908 of Mark Senior's daughter Mary Vere Senior to Leeds Industrialist, Robert Hudson, Gertrude's brother. Two other pupils are recorded: Hetty Josephy, noted as a flower painter and Rosita Camrass.

Fishermen tending Lobster Pots by Mark Senior

Above: "Fishermen Tending Lobster Pots" by Mark Senior.

Winters in Leeds and more paintings
Whilst spending summers in Runswick Bay with his family and the Staithes Group of artists, Mark Senior earned a steady income during the winter months at his studio in Leeds producing portraits of leading civic figures. However, portraiture was not one of his strengths. He found characterization difficult; in many cases the features of his subjects are generalised, giving them a wistful, rather enigmatic air. It was landscape that inspired him to realise his full potential as an artist, and in particular, the landscape of Runswick Bay, which he grew to know very well during the forty years he visited the village. Looking at his work, it possible to experience the character of each season at Runswick - the bitter cold and muted colour of winter; the fresh tingling vitality of spring; the hazy heat of summer, which blurs sea and sky and then the magnificent colours of autumn. It is the privileged insight of an intimate acquaintance.

Senior was a highly dedicated painter. He worked virtually every day, sometimes out of doors making sketches or, when the weather was unsuitable, in his studio working up sketches or reworking existing paintings. Florence Hess remarked upon the intensity of his concentration when he was painting, which exhausted him to a state of near collapse.

Financial security meant that Senior was not obliged to exhibit widely to sell his work. He regarded his first real success as the purchase of his painting "Toil" by Leeds City Art Gallery in 1886. The huge figure of Peggy Tose, a Runswick fisherwoman, dominates and is almost symmetrically placed on the canvas; she advances caught up in her own thoughts to the viewer. It was a popular subject for Victorian artists and owes much to Sir George Clausen and through him to Bastien LePage, who gave Millet's vision of the mystical relationship between labourer and land contemporary form.

In 1892, Mark Senior had a painting accepted by the Royal Academy for the first time; it was entitled "Eventide" and depicted an elderly couple sitting by a fire. From this date, he exhibited regularly at the Academy until 1924. One of his paintings called "Hoeing" had the misfortune to be caricatured in Punch magazine in 1922. The cartoon entitled "The Rotten Stance" was placed under the general heading 'Royal Academy First Depressions'. In the cartoon, Senior's noble farm labourers are transformed into weary golfers in awkward postures. From its inaugural London exhibition in 1911, Senior also exhibited regularly with the National Portrait Society. Before the First World War, he occasionally exhibited on the continent; his painting "The Flemish Washhouse" was exhibited in the International Exhibition in Venice. It was later purchased by one of his patrons, Sam Wilson.

The Sam Wilson Collection
Sam Wilson (1851-1918), the chairman of Joshua Wilson and Sons, a Leeds worsted coat manufacturing firm, was a particularly beneficial patron who acquired eighteen works by Senior. Wilson who lived at Rutland Lodge, Potternewton, Leeds was originally from Ossett and became a patron and friend of Mark Senior. In October 1925, some time after Sam Wilson's death, his widow Ann, bequeathed the extensive art collection, which had been amassed with the guidance of Mark Senior and Sir George Clausen, to Leeds City Art Gallery, with the condition that the two artists should act as "arbiters and advisers" for the decoration of the room in which the collection would be displayed. The collection is as much a tribute to the generosity of Sam Wilson and his wife as it is an insight into the taste of Mark Senior. Among those represented are his friends George Sauter, Frank Brangwyn, J. Buxton Knight and William Orpen as well as artists like Eugene Boudin for whom Senior held a particular admiration. He shared with Boudin a fascination for breezy skies and choppy seas.

Portrait of Sam Wilson by Mark Senior

Above: Mark Senior's 36" x 28" portrait of Ossett-born industrialist Sam Wilson (1851-1918)

Influences
Senior was referred to by the art critic of the "Yorkshire Post" as a disciple of Sir George Clausen, and certainly the influence both in technique and subject matter is evident in his early work. Philip Wilson Steer was another personal friend whose work had a profound influence; from Steer, Senior derived the liquid paint stroke found in his small panel sketches, which gives the paint surface its own vitality, independent of colour. The featureless figures in movement of Steer's Walberswick paintings are directly related to those in Senior's "By the Sea" and "Away to the Sea". However, Senior, whilst using the same techniques for rendering form, identifies his figures with the Spirit of Nature and there is greater force in their movement.

Around 1915, Senior's work reflects an interest in the painting and theories of James McNeill Whistler. Whistler's belief that subject was subordinate to colour and design led Senior to almost abstract depictions of landscape; like Whistler, Senior called these paintings studies of particular colours rather than identifying the subject matter. In his later work, interest in the genre painting diminishes and the colour becomes increasingly rich. The luminous blue of which S.C. Kaines-Smith wrote . . . "that blue of yours is wonderful, it sings", is used increasingly as the dominant colour of the canvas unifying all the elements of the composition. The brilliant colour schemes are combined with an expressive impasto or laid down as flat areas of colour. In these paintings, Senior uses colour as a vehicle for emotions in the same manner as the Symbolists who had captured the interest of his friend George Sauter.

The Trees, Runswick

Above: "The Trees, Runswick" by Mark Senior, which was available from T.B. and R. Jordan (Fine Paintings) in Stockton-on-Tees for £6,950 in 2007.

Poor Health
In a letter of 1910, Albert Gilbert wrote that he hoped for . . ."a complete restoration of health, spirit and total energy, which is not only necessary for your work, but to enable you to continue in the vigorous endeavours, which you have always made to conscientiously do it. "

Towards the end of his life, Senior suffered from a heart complaint, which left him unable to complete large canvases. Instead, he turned to watercolour sketches.

Mark Senior died at his house "Hillside" in Runswick Bay on New Year's Day, 1927 at the age of sixty-four and was buried at St. Hilda's Parish Church, Hinderwell.



Chronology

1862 - 16th March: born Hanging Heaton, near Dewsbury, son of Benjamin Senior (blanket weaver) and Amy Senior, late Milnes, formerly Ward.

1871 - 22 January: baptised at St. Paul's Church, Hanging Heaton. Living with maternal grandfather at Ward Buildings, Soothill.

1880 - Attending Wakefield School of Art, headmaster John Swire of Wakefield.

1881 - Awarded the Mayor's Prize for the "second-best shaded figure from a cast" at Wakefield School of Art.

1886 - 7th January: married Alice Brook of Ossett, daughter of Thomas Brook (Mungo Manufacturer) at the New Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Wesley Street, Ossett. "Toil and Cloth Dyers" exhibited at the Athenaeum, Leeds.

1889 - Living at 46 Halifax Road, Dewsbury.

1892 - Living at Fieldhead House, Ossett. "Eventide" exhibited at the Royal Academy.

1896 - Studio at 54 Prudential Buildings, Leeds. "Pastures by the Sea" exhibited at the Royal Academy.

1897 - Savage Club formed in Leeds.

1898 - "Her Frugal Meal, The Wild Rose, E. Caldwell Spruce and Firelight" exhibited at the Royal Academy.

1899 - Studio now at 9 South Parade, Leeds. "Preparing Bait and Herr Muller" exhibited at the Royal Academy.

1900 - "Washing Day, Nightfall and Homewards" exhibited at the Royal Academy. Summer visit to Dorset.

1901 - Living at Town End in Ossett.

1902 - "Painting Floats" exhibited at the Royal Academy.

1905 - "Sunlight and Shadow" exhibited at the Royal Academy. Miss Florence Hess (1891 - 1974) became a pupil.

1906 - Painted with Philip Wilson Steer and George Sauter at Walberswick, Suffolk.

1907 - "A Flemish Fishmarket" exhibited at the Royal Academy. Visit to Bruges.

1908 - Studio at 67 Cookridge Street, Leeds. Trip to Bruges with pupils Florence Hess and Gertrude Hudson in the autumn. Exhibited in the Spring Exhibition, Leeds City Art Gallery.

1909 - "A Yorkshire Village" and " Spring Sunlight" exhibited at the Royal Academy. Visited Bruges in August.

1910 - "Spring" exhibited at the Royal Academy. "Sam Wilson Esq," exhibited at Cartwright Memorial Hall, Bradford. Visit to Albert Gilbert's home in Bruges.

1911 - "Springtime" and "Away to the Sea" exhibited at the Royal Academy. "Portrait of Florence Hess" exhibited at the National Portrait Society's inaugural London exhibition at the Grafton Galleries.

1913 - Visited Germany with Florence Hess in January. "Miss Helena Senior" exhibited in the National Portrait Society's exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery, London. "Evening" exhibited at the Royal Academy. "Summer and Springtime" exhibited in the Twentieth Spring Exhibition, Cartwright Memorial Hall, Bradford.

1914 - "Miss Gladys Ives" exhibited in the National Portrait Society's exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery, London. "Spring, Autumn Sunlight and Orange & Gold" exhibited in the Twenty-First Spring Exhibition featuring works by members of the Chelsea Arts Club, at Cartwright Memorial Hall, Bradford.

1915 - "Miss Hetty Josephy" exhibited in the National Portrait Society's exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery, London.

1916 - Studio now at Sun Buildings, 15 Park Row, Leeds. "The Wild Rose" exhibited in the National Portrait Society's exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery, London. "The Beach" exhibited at the Royal Academy.

1917 - Living at Apex House, Prospect Road, Ossett. "A Spring Morning" and "The Apple" exhibited at the Royal Academy. "Lieutenant Marnham, Portrait and Lieutenant - Colonel R. A. Hudson, D.S.O." exhibited at the National Portrait Society's exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery, London.

1918 - Death of Sam Wilson. Work commences on the decoration of the Sam Wilson Gallery at Leeds City Art Gallery. "The Balcony" and "Spring" exhibited at the Royal Academy. "Blossoms" exhibited at the National Portrait Society's exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery, London.

1919 - "June" and "Spring" exhibited at the Royal Academy. "Margaret" exhibited at the National Portrait Society's exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery, London. New house called "Hillside" built at Runswick Bay.

1920 - "The Poem and "Labour" exhibited at the Royal Academy.

1921 - "The Wild Rose" exhibited at the National Portrait Society's exhibition at the Grafton Galleries, London.

1922 - New house "Southlands" built at Ossett. "Hoeing" exhibited at the Royal Academy and caricatured in a Punch magazine cartoon.

1924 - "Autumn Landscape" and "Spring" exhibited at the Royal Academy. "Spring" was later exhibited in the Fifty-second Autumn Exhibition at the Walker Art gallery, Liverpool.

1927 - 1st January, Senior died at "Hillside" Runswick Bay aged 64. He was buried at St. Hilda's Parish Church, Hinderwell. Memorial Exhibition at Leeds City Art Gallery.

Reminiscences of Mark Senior by Mrs. Mary Oddie, the artist's Grand-Daughter:

My memories of holidays spent at Runswick with my grandfather, Mark Senior, are days filled with happiness and sunshine, with skies that were always blue.

To have the privilege of seeing through the eyes of an artist is something which has remained with me all my life. To this day my surroundings are very important, and colour, particularly the colours in so many of his paintings are the ones which I favour.

My grandmother and grandfather went all their married life to Runswick, going before Easter and not coming home to their house in Ossett until October. At first they rented a small cottage, but in 1919 built what would seem in those days, a very modern house.

My grandfather and his contemporary artists, Gilbert Foster, Harold and Laura Knight, Fred Jackson and his pupil J.W. Booth, Owen Bowen, Roland Hill, Andrew Colley, Arthur Friedensen, Fred Mayor, Charles Mackie and Bulmer appeared to be completely accepted by the fisherfolk of this small village on the north-east coast, and as small children, my father, his brother and two sisters attended the village school at Ellerby with the other village children. Indeed, my grandparents are buried in the churchyard at Hinderwell, in which parish Runswick lies.

This then was where I and my brother and my cousins all spent our holidays, visiting and counting as our friends the fisherfolk, fetching the butter and cream from the farm, riding with the carrier, old Mick Clark, up and down the steep bank on his cart pulled by Cleveland Bays, going out fishing, and racing round the cliffs at Kettleness Point to watch when ships went aground on the rocks as so often happened in those days. But best of all, going out with my grandfather and watching him paint, sometimes on the moors, sometimes along the beach, sometimes in his studio, and then helping clean his palette and wash his paint brushes, and laboriously for small fingers, wind cotton around the bristles so that they dried straight.

I used to try on the dresses kept in his studio for his models to wear, and well remember the mauve dress worn by the model in "Away to the Sea", also the pink parasol featured in many of his paintings.

I remember him as a fun-loving person with a fund of stories, who made us believe in fairies. He used to hide threepenny bits all over the house and we used to turn the house upside down to see if the fairies had been. I don't think my grandmother believed in fairies.

I was only eight years old when my grandfather died, but life was never quite the same. His death left a gap that was never filled.

I have been told by people who remember him that my grandfather was a man of great taste; someone who who loved life and had many friends, but a Yorkshireman through-and-through, outspoken but generous as many of the letters (which are in my possession) from his friend, the sculptor, Sir Alfred Gilbert show.

Amongst his friends were Sir George Clausen, Sir William Orpen, Philip Wilson Steer, Frank Brangwyn, James McNeill Whistler, George Sauter, and Bertram Priestman.

Of his pupils, Florence Hess is probably best known. Others included Gertrude Hudson, whose brother Robert married Mark Senior's daughter Vere, and my father often spoke of Hetty Josephy and Rosita Camrass.

Many of his paintings were small sketches, their title written on the back in his very bold hand. From these sketches, his large oil paintings were often executed in his studios either at Runswick or Leeds.

Unusual Commission
After the Ossett coal strike in 1893, Mark Senior received a commission from a group of mill owners in Ossett to paint a portrait of Henry Westwood, the owner of Westfield Colliery in Ossett.

Henry Westwood J.P. by Mark Senior

Above: Mark Senior's 1893 portrait of Ossett industrialist, Henry Westwood J.P.

Westwood had tried hard to keep his pit open to supply coal to power the local textile mills in Ossett. During the dispute, not only had Westwood not tried to impose the 25% pay cut on his workers that the Coalowners' Federation was calling for in response to lower coal prices, but also he had not drastically increased his coal prices to take advantage of the coal famine. In recognition of his services, local mill owners subscribed for his portrait to be painted and it was presented to him in January 1894. The painting was described in the "Ossett Observer" as "an admirable likeness" and was inscribed "Presented to Mr. Henry Westwood J.P. by a few friends, as a mark of respect and in grateful recognition of the generous assistance rendered by his firm to the trade of Ossett during the memorable coal strike of 1893." Westwood's business partner, in Westwood and Co. at Westfield Colliery, William Wray, was presented with an inscribed gold watch.