Gorgeous paintings of Norfolk to go on show at Cley Marshes

After the tide, Thornham, by John Hurst

After the tide, Thornham, by John Hurst - Credit: John Hurst

The wild beauty of the north Norfolk coast shimmers from his paintings. Wind-ruffled seascapes, cloud-scudded skyscapes and river-washed landscapes lead viewers to some of Norfolk’s most beautiful places. 

They also lead Sheringham artist John Hurst back through 50 years of watercolour painting and forward to the uncertain future of our coast.  

The stories and pictures of his half a century of painting, rivers gliding and glinting through marshes, flower-frothed hedges and bright beaches, ripple-rocked rowing boats and guillemots gazing from clutches of stones, are threaded through his memoir, Watercolour Words, Fifty Years. Some of them will be on show at the Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Cley Marshes visitor centre from March 30 to April 26 – and part of a multimedia performance of poetry, music, stories and paintings on April 10.  

Cley Marshes After Rain by John Hurst

Cley Marshes After Rain by John Hurst - Credit: John Hurst

Artist John Hurst sketching at Salthouse marshes

Artist John Hurst sketching at Salthouse marshes - Credit: Archant

Still Water Dyke, Brograve by John Hurst features in his retrospective book Watercolour Words. Fifty Years

- Credit: John Hurst

Changing Landscapes, at the Cley visitor centre, will combine the music and poetry of Scottish islands with beauty of the north Norfolk coast, and tradition and history with immediate environmental concerns. 

In his memoir, Watercolour Words, John traces his own story from a rural boyhood through decades of glorious Norfolk coastal paintings, with anecdotes of encounters with Chris Packham and David Attenborough and a friendship with his one-time next-door-neighbour Ian Botham along the way. His portrait of the cricketer featured on a postage stamp.   

Many of John's paintings include beautifully observed birds and he has run bird-sketching classes on the Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserves at Salthouse and Cley. “It was birdwatching which brought me to Norfolk,” says John. “I started painting Blakeney and we fell in love with the area. I was getting so many commissions to paint north Norfolk, and exhibitions here, that we moved here!”    

John’s wife, Jacqui, is also an artist, specialising in linocuts of the Norfolk coast and its wildlife. 

Most Read

He was commissioned to paint a series of watercolours of the Sheringham Shoal Windfarm as it took shape and previous books include a collection of favourite Norfolk coastal walks, illustrated by his watercolours, and paintings of places linked to Methodist founder John Wesley. The pictures, owned by The World Methodist Council in the USA, are known as The Hurst Collection. 

He spent a year as an artist in residence on a Norfolk estate – creating a book of original paintings for the house, and another year painting a Lincolnshire estate through the seasons. The concept became something of a speciality with more one-off collections of paintings produced for grand houses from Norfolk to Devon. One of his collection of paintings, Norfolk Sketchbook, was introduced by Lady Leicester of Holkham Hall. 

Watercolour Words Fifty Years by John Hurst

Watercolour Words Fifty Years by John Hurst - Credit: Contributed

Sir Norman Lamb wrote the foreword to Watercolour Words, and a percentage of proceeds will go to his Mental Health and Wellbeing Foundation to help children and young people struggling with mental ill health, learning disabilities or autism. 

The foundation will also benefit, alongside Norfolk Wildlife Trust, from the retiring collection at Changing Landscapes. The hour of paintings, poetry, stories and music, presented by poet James Knox Whittet, singer Anna McCrae and artist John Hurst aims to help draw attention to environmental issues and will be filmed, for later online streaming, by the charity Home-Stage.  While John was born in Lincolnshire, both James and Anna are from the Hebrides, James from the island of Islay, where his father was the head gardener at a castle, and Anna from Barra which is celebrated as an isle of ‘singers and tradition bearers.’

Tickets for the performance on Sunday, April 10 are free but must be booked via home-stage.co.uk  

Our Norfolk Landscape, by John Hurst, runs at the Norfolk Wildlife Trust visitor centre in Cley from March 30 to April 26. Free 10am-5pm.