Sir Alfred East (1844- 1913)


[Signature from Dictionnaire des Peintres Benezit (1999)]



[Signature from Dictionnaire des Peintres Benezit (1999)]

   Alfred was born in Lower Street Kettering in 1844 and attended the local grammar school  He enrolled at Glasgow School of Art  and later went to study in France. He returned to England around about 1883 establishing studios in both London and Cornwall. His work did reflect the mood of the new century and in the next decade honours were showered upon him from all over the world. In 1910 he was given a Knighthood.


This is the first occasion on which an Alfred East page has been included on our web site. We would welcome feedback and suggestions on aspects which you would like us to cover in the future. The intention is to provide a new edition of the page at regular intervals. Topics for the future might, besides further information about East’s connection with particular areas or countries, include information on galleries holding his works, his involvement with the professional societies of artists speeches and writings on art his portrayal of the moods of nature. We are grateful to Mr. Paul Johnson author of

"Alfred East, Lyrical Landscape Painter" (2009)  for his contribution in providing the contents of this page.


Favourite countryside

Alfred East in the Savoy region

East may be known particularly for his portrayals of the English countryside but he also had a particular affinity with France. Not only was he a student at the Academy Julian in Paris  in the early 1880’s, but he painted on the Somme, the Seine and the Loire and visited Vichy near the end of his life. Amongst the representative collection of his best pictures that East gave to his native town of Kettering in 2013 is the magnificent large oil painting  Lake Bourget from Mount Revard  (RA 1900) now in the Kettering Art Gallery.








JH Bacon ‘s portrait of Alfred East (1844-1913) from  The Studio Aug.1901


Between the years 1895 and 1910 on at least six occasions, he spent part of the summer or autumn in the spa town of Aix-les-Bains in the Savoy region. There he stayed in the Hotel Splendide painting the Lac du Bourget, the Dent du Chat mountain and (unusually for him) the centre of the town.













Hotel Splendide, Aix-les-Bains

(now apartments)



Aix-les-Bains was a place where Queen Victoria holidayed on three occasions with her daughter Beatrice as did later on Austen and Neville Chamberlain, Baldwin and Churchill. The town had a sizeable English colony until the second World War and still has some English street names (Boulevard des Anglais, Rue Sir Alfred Garrod, Avenue Victoria). It is proud of its history and, with thermalism now  somewhat in decline, sees its past  as continuing to provide tourists in the future. 


Recently, In October, nearly fifty members of the Anglo-French Society came to see reproductions of East’s  paintings  of the area  and to hear a talk about his life. Plans are now being canvassed to exhibit these pictures in the Splendide in 2013, the centenary of his death.












Alfred East’s Lake Bourget on the  cover of a 1990’s book


















Glimpse of lake Bourget by Alfred East (overlooking the town of Aix-les-Bains), private owner.


Alfred East at Rivington , Lancashire

Just over a century ago in the summer of 1909, Alfred East stayed with WH Lever (later Lord Leverhulme) at his country home - The Bungalow, Rivington, Lancashire. East painted a remarkable series of pictures of the surrounding landscape – the lakes, the country park, the village and the Pike ( 1,191 ft).

Today, the village of Rivington and its surrounding countryside is popular local recreational  facility for walkers and nature lovers. The two preserved “A” frame Saxon barns accommodate weddings and other functions and provide refreshments for day visitors  and an old farm is used as a visitor centre. 



Lever who commissioned many of the pictures, gave fifteen of them to his native town of Bolton, the local

grammar  school of which he was a governor, the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and the Lady Lever Art

Gallery at Port Sunlight. Bolton Museum and Art Gallery less than 10 miles from Rivington, is to mount

a small exhibition of East’s Rivington works from its collection between June and December 2012.


Alfred East included two of the water colours painted whilst staying in the Bungalow in his gift to Kettering 

in 1913 – A glimpse of Rivington Water  and  In Rivington Park. In the 1960’s the Gallery acquired a

large oil painting (exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1913 ) [From] Rivington Pike.


Around 50 of East’s oil paintings held by public galleries in Britain, can now be viewed on the wonderful new

web site- BBC- Your Paintings.          The Public Catalogue Foundation over recent years has toured the

counties photographing all the oil paintings in public collections.








 In Lever Park (private collection)


More than 100,000 are now on line and are being added to all the time.


Seeing the pictures on the internet is a valuable introduction to, or reminder of, the works but no substitute for visiting the galleries themselves. At least  75 public collections include one or more works by Sir Alfred East (25 galleries abroad and  50 in the UK ). The Kettering Art Gallery holds more of his works than any other Gallery- 18 oil paintings, 28 water colours, 40 etchings and 12 pencil drawings. 


Once you have seen the Kettering collection there are other museums which hold his creations: In the UK provinces:- Birmingham City Art Gallery (3 Oils, 1 w/c, etchings and drawings, sketch book) Hayle  from Lelant ( RA ) and two Japanese works, Bolton Museum and Art Gallery (3 Oils, 4 w/c,) – mainly pictures of Rivington  donated by WH Lever in 1911. Dudley Art Gallery (6 Oils, 6 w/c) including Autumn Afterglow (RA 1887) and Gladstone’s Funeral. Leeds City Art Gallery (2 Oils, w/c, 7 et/d) - including The Golden  Valley and works donated by his friend RH Kitson. Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery (1 Oil, 6 w/c, etching )- including Gibraltar from Algeciras and 6 water colours in the Rivington series donated by WH Lever. Northampton Museum and Art Gallery ( 5 Oils , 2 w/c, 3 etchings) including Chateau Gaillard ,The Bend in the River and portrayals of Stow on the Wol. Peterborough City Museum and Art Gallery ( 2 Oils, 4 etchings) The Top of the Hill .


In London the British Museum (2 w/c, 1 drawing, 1 etching ) including w/c’s of Whitby and Tangier. English Speaking Union (2 Oils)

- The Rainbow (RA 1914), Richmond, Yorkshire. Royal Academy (Oil)- Evening in the Cotswolds. Tate Gallery (Oil) Golden Autumn.

Victoria and Albert Museum, France (6), Spain (5) and Italy (3). 

William Morris  Gallery, Walthamstow (4 w/c) – including of Holland and Cornwall (Sir Frank  Brangwyn’s  donation).  

Windsor Castle (2 w/c’s) Cookham: the Village High Street (RI jubilee gift  1886) .


And abroad you can see his works in : Argentine – Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Ayres  (oil) A Midland Valley

Australia-, New South Wales National Gallery (2 oil, 3 other works) , Canada – National Gallery (3 oils) Storm in the Midlands

France-  Louvre, Paris,  L’Orage, Italy- Uffizi, Florence, Self Portrait, Japan- Koriyama City Museum of Art (5 works) including Tea House in Hakone,

New Zealand-,Christchurch (oil) A moonlit landscape, Spain- Barcelona Museum of Modern Art (1 oil,3 etchings) Valley of the Wye, USA- Pittsburg ,

The Duquesne Club Wings of the Morning .


Some early comments on East's work - From an article “The Water Colours of Sir Alfred  East”  by the renowned art critic Charles Marriott published in The Studio Magazine in January 1912:-


“…..It has been said that all Sir Alfred’s pictures are solutions to some problem of decoration. That in a sense is true, but the decorative intention is never at the cost of feeling. The moods, not less than the forms of nature are expressed in his drawings. He culls trees as another man might cull flowers, and flings them together into a graceful pattern, but the pattern has always an emotional significance. 


And not only the pattern, but the colour. To quote his own words “ the raison d’ętre of painting, in contradistinction to the other arts, is the expression of colour,  or rather the expression of colour allied with form.” In looking at one of his drawings you feel that the colour is not only true in relation to nature and harmonious in relation to the general scheme but that it has an emotional meaning of its own…” 



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