Artists capture life in a room steeped in history

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Last week in a room in the Red Lion Hotel, Pontefract, a rather unusual art class took place.

Artists Liz Salter from Thorpe Audlin and Brian Lewis from Pontefract joined 16 others, the majority of them enthusiastic amateurs, who had gathered together to draw, paint and sketch a live model - the first time that most of them had ever attended a life class.

The venue in the town centre was chosen by organiser, Brian Lewis, for a particular reason.

In 1872 the feminist and ‘patron saint of prostitutes’ Josephine Butler had come to the garrison town of Pontefract.

She was crusading to force a change to the law which required prostitutes to be examined against their will by police surgeons.

At a meeting in the town, a mob tried to burn down the building she was speaking in and she escaped and was given sanctuary by the owners of the Red Lion.

Brian said: “I really liked the idea of putting on the event in such an historic place.

“When we first had the idea for the life class we were not sure how many would come. But within a week we had 12 confirmed with a few more promises.”

The room had no electricity and the 18 artists had to crowd together by the window to make use of the available light.

But despite these limitations the event was deemed to be a huge success.

“At the end of the day we all shared our work among each other and the range produced was amazing,” said Brian.

“Some of the work was clearly outside the comfort zone of some of the artists - myself included - and it was really interesting to see what they produced.”

He added: “The participants ranged in age from 17 to 79 years of age and all said they had got a great deal out of it.

“The model Suzi read a poem she’s written about her experiences watching people draw her and it was a really productive and creative day.”

Dozens of photographs of the artists working were taken by 17-year-old photographer Karl Nurse.

These, together with narrative from each participant, will be collated into a book and published; the art works produced from the life class will come together to form The Josephine Butler Exhibition later in the year.

Brian Lewis has recently opened the Tyke Modern Gallery at Cornmarket, Pontefract - in rooms above the Elite Training Systems Yorkshire’s (ETSY) community store

On display are 139 works by 34 Yorkshire Artists.