Artists along the Ouse

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries many artists lived and worked around Houghton Mill and St Ives (Huntingdonshire).

The Huntingdonshire (now Cambridgeshire) St Ives was "discovered" by the art world in the early 1880s when river and landscape artists came to visit this picturesque, but hitherto unpainted area. At first these artists confined themselves to a five mile stretch of the River Great Ouse from Holywell, east of St Ives, to the small villages of Hemingford Grey, Hemingford Abbots, Houghton, Wyton and Hartford to the west of St Ives.

A picture from the Houghton Mill Art Exhibition
A picture from the Houghton Mill Art Exhibition

The artists were often groups of friends; some came for a week or two, some stayed a summer, others came regularly for several years, and quite a few made their home here. Well over a hundred artists are known to have worked in the St Ives area and at least forty of them lived in the area for some time. Why did so many artists congregate here? Established artists attracted other artists who found that the Ouse villages were delightful places to work and to meet fellow artists. But the group disappeared nearly as quickly as it had arrived – by the mid 1930s almost all the artists had gone - changing tastes in the art market and the effects of the Depression had moved them away.

A picture from the Houghton Mill Art Exhibition
A picture from the Houghton Mill Art Exhibition

The artists of this time included James John Hissey (1847-1921); Edmund Morrison Wimperis (1835-1900); Frederick George Cotman (1850-1920); Fritz Althaus (1863-1962) ; Henry H Parker (1858–1930); John Shirley Fox, the Fraser brothers - Garden William Fraser, George Gordon Fraser, Robert Winchester Fraser and Arthur Anderson Fraser. Works by some of these artists can been seen in the gallery at Houghton Mill.

A picture from the Houghton Mill Art Exhibition
A picture from the Houghton Mill Art Exhibition