'I can almost hear the wild geese calling'
Sailing off Blakeney Point, Norfolk, about 1920–40, by Gerald Ackermann (1876–1960), 9-and-a-half in by 14in, Private Collection
Alastair Fothergill says:‘ Gerald Ackermann’s paintings. My father collected English watercolours and I grew to appreciate the subtle and unique way this medium can capture the changing moods of the British countryside. I was lucky enough to spend all my childhood holidays on the north Norfolk coast and I still go back there as often as I can. Ackermann’s work perfectly captures the wide landscapes and big skies that make this coast so very special. Looking at this painting, I can almost hear the wild geese calling.’
Alastair Fothergill is a wildlife TV producer, whose most recent project, The Hunt, is currently showing on BBC1 (Sunday evenings until December 13)
John McEwen comments on Sailing off Blakeney Point: ‘Arthur Gerald Ackermann was born at Blackheath, first son of the art dealer Arthur Ackermann, thus predestined to uphold the Arthur Ackermann artdealing dynasty, famous for publishing sporting prints. No wonder he dropped his first name when he became an artist. He was educated at New College, Eastbourne, and studied art in London at the Heatherley’s School of Fine Art,
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Westminster School of Art and, later, at the Royal Academy Schools, where, in 1900, he won the Creswick Prize for landscape painting. He specialized in watercolour and exhibited frequently at the Royal Academy, Royal Institute of Watercolour Painters (elected 1912) and Royal British Academy, as well as having solo shows at the prestigious Leicester Galleries and Fine Art Society.
Ackermann painted throughout Britain and latterly settled in Blakeney, north Norfolk, thus suitably aligning his art—described by the English watercolour expert Chris Beetles of St James’s as ‘gently soaked in the soft washes of tradition’—with the 19th-century Norwich School. Despite meticulous details—boats and buildings in his Blakeney views—he used broad brushes.
Until the early 20th century, Blakeney was a thriving fishing port. By Ackermann’s time, the harbour had silted up and only small boats could put out to the North Sea past Blakeney Point. The 19th-century failure to build a railway to connect the port with the outside world made it a congenial backwater for Ackermann to practise his gentle art—the present population of a maximum of 800 has remained unchanged for 200 years. Today, it has a National Trust nature reserve, best known for England’s largest breeding colony of grey seals.