He’s been called the ‘secret Lowry of Warrington’ but, in truth, Eric Tucker has more in common with the painter Edward Burra than the chronicler of the industrial north west.
A new exhibition – and the first to show Tucker’s work – at Warrington Museum & Art Gallery is aptly titled The Unseen Artist, not least because he was unknown in his lifetime, his prodigious output known only to the man himself. Although Tucker’s family knew that he painted, it was only after the 86-year-old unskilled labourer’s death last year that they discovered more than 400 oil and watercolour paintings and thousands of sketches in the front parlour of his terraced house in Warrington.
For more than six decades, this unassuming yet much-loved man who lived with his mother and stepfather quietly painted what he saw in front of him. Much like L.S. Lowry and the North East’s Pitman Painters, he observed drinkers in the local smoke-filled pubs, drew men walking their dogs down narrow streets, and captured working class life in a manner which perfectly evokes those noisy bars, cobbled alleyways and belching red brick chimneys.
To see Tucker’s work is to be amazed. There are more than 70 works on display in Warrington (a dream he nourished yet never saw realised) and it beggars belief that he was a self-taught artist who hid his shining light under a northern bushel. I urge you all to get along to the Cheshire town post haste. And make sure you see Horses (this article’s main image), an ethereal painting that marries the graft of industrial life with a dream-like magic I can’t quite put my finger on. There are echoes of the surrealist Paul Nash and Art Deco’s Tamara de Lempicka in this unforgettable artwork, and yet it is unmistakably what I think in future years will come to be called Tucker-esque.
All paintings by Eric Tucker. Images courtesy of Warrington Museum & Art Gallery.
Eric Tucker: The Unseen Artist is on at Warrington Museum & Art Gallery until February 23, 2020. Entry is free.