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DESCRIBED as a “little bohemia by the sea”, at the end of the 19th century the small fishing village of Cullercoats on the north east coast saw amongst their hard fisherfolk lives an invasion of artists. They were largely local-born but there were also a few international names in the midst, including Frank Holl, William Quiller Orchardson and, most famously, the American artist Winslow Homer.

Published to coincide with an exhibition at the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle until October 12, this book describes the artistic life at Cullercoats and discusses the village’s status as, arguably, the first British coastal colony. Many of the heroic images in this book are of the classic rescue picture – the lifeboat scene, including Homer’s curiously detached Wreck of the Iron Crown 1881, which, when he sent it to Chase, his Boston dealer, in February 1882, he directed: “If you like you may cut off the life boat.”

It is always the women who wait and who grieve for their loved ones and this powerful imagery is shown most feelingly in Henry Hetherington Emmerson’s Waiting for the Boats, exh. 1870, John Charlton’s The Women, 1910, Frank Holl’s No Tidings from the Sea 1871 and Frank Bramley’s Hopeless Dawn 1888.

Hard to read, Cullercoats is written in a thesis style with its talk of “fetishising female forms” and “belief systems” but is still rich in its visual impact and its reference.