Stunning images of River Tyne’s industrial past on display in South Shields exhibition

Artwork by Peter Burns.
Artwork by Peter Burns.

An exhibition of paintings that record the people and places associated with the shipbuilding industry of the Tyne opens in South Shields today.

The paintings by Tyneside artist, Peter Burns, date to the period when shipbuilding was at its peak on the River Tyne.

Artwork by Peter Burns.

Artwork by Peter Burns.

Peter spent his working life as a plater in the shipyards and has first-hand experience of the day-to-day life of the yards, the people who worked there, and the trades of the ship builders.

Peter has selected twenty of his personal favourite paintings for the three-day exhibition at The Word.

It is the first time that an art exhibition of this kind has been held at the venue, which, appropriately looks out over the river where ships such as the RMS Mauretania, HMS Newcastle, HMS Ark Royal, Atlantic Conveyor and Esso Northumbria were launched.

Born in 1944, Peter started drawing and painting at a young age and is a mostly self-taught artist.

Artwork by Peter Burns.

Artwork by Peter Burns.

After leaving school he went straight to serve an apprenticeship with Swan Hunter Shipbuilders and went on to work as a plater in the yard.

Several of the paintings in the exhibition are from Peter’s own collection and have never been exhibited in public previously.

Some of the large-scale paintings on show date to the 1970s when Peter was asked by British Shipbuilders to visit and paint the shipyards throughout the north of England.

His archive of drawings, sketches and finished paintings is a uniquely personal body of work and an important insight into the shipbuilding industry at the time.

Dame Catherine Cookson sat for Peter in the 1980s when he completed a series of drawings for her and later produced a portrait of Catherine and Tom Cookson which is on show in this exhibition.

Last year, North-East crime writer, Ann Cleeves, chose a picture by Peter as her Favourite Painting for an article in Country Life magazine.

The magazine article has brought Peter’s art to the attention of a new audience outside the North of England.

Peter’s has illustrated several books including Where the Wall Ends and the Shipyard Muddling collections of poetry by his friend and work colleague, the late Jack Davitt.

Now retired from the shipbuilding industry, Peter continues to paint in his loft studio at home in Low Fell, Gateshead, and is married with two children.

Exhibition runs begins today and runs until Monday.

Open 10am to 4pm.

Entry free.