From Fells to Fjords

A Mountain Path, Sandwick, Ullswater by Alfred Heaton Cooper Ennerdale Water by Alfred Heaton Cooper Hardanger Fjord by Alfred Heaton Cooper

Heaton Cooper Studio in the beautiful Lake District village of Grasmere, has a new exhibition until 12 June revealing how Scandinavian influence has impacted on the culture of northern England, specifically the Lakes.

From Fells to Fjords illustrates how the Scandinavian landscape inspired Lake District artist Alfred Heaton Cooper

One artist par excellence explored the profound cultural similarities and connections in his art over several decades. In his quest for discovery Alfred Heaton Cooper (1863-1929) journeyed from his home in the Lake District throughout Denmark, Sweden and Norway, reaching as far as Arctic Lapland. Heaton Cooper documented the landscapes, buildings and people he encountered along the way, noting the parallels between Lakeland and Scandinavian lives and landscapes.

From Fells to Fjords celebrates Heaton Cooper‘s artwork at the studio he founded in the heart of the Lakes, in Grasmere

Heaton Cooper loved Northern Europe so much that he shipped an entire log cabin from Norway to Coniston where he used it as his first studio! Realising later that there were more visitors to Ambleside, he then relocated the cabin again – it stands to this day on the approach to the town where it now houses The Log House restaurant.

The artist and his dynasty moved to Grasmere, where the Heaton Cooper Studio’s new Archive Gallery provides a centre for landscape interpretation and is one of the most significant cultural tourist attractions in the North of England.

While the Heaton Cooper Studio carries permanent exhibitions of artwork by Alfred, his son William Heaton Cooper, daughter-in-law Ophelia Gordon Bell, and other members of the family, this new show concentrates on the intriguing Scandinavian connection between the fjords and the fells.

Highlighting Alfred Heaton Cooper’s artistic process from sketchbook drawings to finished paintings and colour plates, From Fells to Fjords is a fascinating insight into Scandinavian life and landscape in the period from 1890 to 1927

These artistic insights were used to illustrate a series of guidebooks, The Norwegian Fjords, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, published by A&C Blacks from 1905 to 1927. The exhibition will also carry a wealth of material – drawings, watercolours and oils – used to illustrate Heaton Cooper’s two masterly and classic books, The English Lakes published in 1905, and Wild Lakeland published in 1922.

Pillar Rock by Alfred Heaton Cooper
Pillar Rock by Alfred Heaton Cooper

// A Scandinavian Adventure

Alfred Heaton Cooper set off to the Norwegian fjords determined to make his living selling landscape pictures to the well heeled European tourists who were visiting in greater numbers. He became fascinated by the rural peasant life of the people of the Sogne and Hardanger regions. After extensive study he wrote and illustrated a guide book to the fjords.

Heaton Cooper married a local girl and built a studio beside the fjord at Balestrand, which stands today and is known still as Cooperhus. Unable to make an adequate living in Norway, he tried to arrange matters so that he could live partly there and partly in England, where he returned with his bride in 1894, settling first back in Bolton, then Southport and finally the Lake District, where wealthy tourists promised a better livelihood.

// Norse Heritage

It was in the tenth century that Norse people who had originally settled in Ireland came to the Lake District to escape political turmoil, constructing monuments such as crosses and earthworks marking significant places.

It’s possible to identify where Norse people lived because of local place names, for example names ending in –by, such as Ireby, mean village; and those ending in –thwaite, like Satterthwaite, mean clearing. Other words with a Norse origin are beck which means stream; dale which means valley; fell which means hill or mountain; gill which means ravine.

The name Windermere, England’s largest lake, comes from the Scandinavian for ‘lake of a man called Vinandr’

And the iconic Herdwick breed of sheep, now considered native to the Lake District, is thought to have originated from Scandinavia. The word “Herdwyck”, meaning sheep pasture, is recorded in documents going back to the 12th century. Herdwick sheep are the most hardy of all Britain’s breeds of hill sheep, grazing the central and western dales of the Lake District.

From Fells to Fjords runs at Heaton Cooper Studio, in Grasmere, from April 28 until June 12

To enjoy this Lakes Culture event and much more, book your break in the Lake District here