East was born in Kettering in Northamptonshire and studied at the Glasgow School of Art. His romantic landscapes show the influence of the Barbizon school. His The Art of Landscape Painting in Oil Colour was published in 1906. In April 1888 he had shared an exhibition at the galleries of the Fine Art Society with T.C. Gotch and W. Ayerst Ingram, and was commissioned the following year by Marcus Huish, Managing Director of the Society, to spend six months in Japan to paint the landscape and the people of the country. When the exhibition of 104 paintings from this tour was held at the Fine Art Society in 1890 it was a spectacular success.
East visited Spain after 1892 when he visited Algeciras at the southern end of Iberia.
In 1906 he was elected President of the Royal Society of British Artists, a position he held until his death. In that year, he published his 107-page illustrated “The Art of Landscape Painting in Oil Colour”; in its preface, he made the observation: “The greatest errors in landscape painting are to be found — contradictory as it may appear — not so much in the matter of technique as in the painter’s attitude toward Nature”. In this book he described his techniques using colours, half-tones and pencil sketches.
He was awarded a Knighthood in 1910 by King Edward VII. His portrait was painted by Philip de Laszlo. The Alfred East Art Gallery in Kettering, designed by John Alfred Gotch opened on 31 July 1913. The Alfred East Gallery is Northamptonshire’s oldest purpose-built art gallery.
East was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1899, having been a regular exhibitor since 1883 and elected to full membership in 1913.
On Sunday, 28 September 1913, Alfred East died at his London residence in Belsize Park. His body was taken back to Kettering and lay in state in the Art Gallery, where it was surrounded by the pictures he had presented to the town, and attracted crowds of several thousands.
I cheated and lifted the bio from Wikipedia simply as there is not much said there apart from a list of his accomplishments, for those outside the UK you may not know Kettering is an army town and has been for many years and I would speculate he came from a fairly well off military family but for all his travels there is something very homely about his art.
I chose this picture first as it struck me that on the one hand you have the feeling of an impressionist, Monet himself regularly painted figures in the garden but the back ground structure was what really made me stop and look again. I cannot be sure if it is an aqueduct or a railway bridge, certainly by this point the age of steam was in full flow, Monet and several other artists painted in the stations in Paris yet East chooses to show architecture blending into the landscape rather than jarring against it,
Many times writers go to extremes in an attempt to surprise and entertain but it is just as true for us that in integrating layers of ideas subtly you can create depth in a story and achieve the same impact eventually but at a what could be considered a slower pace, in some ways this makes the juxtapositions of ideas more surprising than an initial jarring at seeing them side by side.
The final one reminds me again of numerous other artists but I think it also serves as a reminder that just because something is similar to other things it does not negate the quality of the work or the time spent crafting it. They say all stories can be tracked back to half a dozen themes, after that everything is just a variation. Likewise when you consider that there is every chance dozens of artists have stood in that self same spot he paint from at countless points through time, the time differences caused by his eyesight looking at that spot on that day may not be obvious without another next to it for exact comparison but just consider how very different that same painting might have felt if there had been black clouds and rain on that day.
We should all remember that often it is the slightest things that can change everything without seeming important at all.