Drawn to life: Mary Gundry’s beach scenes

Summer Heat by Mary Gundry

Summer Heat by Mary Gundry - Credit: Archant

Mary Gundry’s much-loved depictions of children at play on Suffolk’s beaches have won her many fans, but there’s much more in the portfolio of this adventurous artist, as a new book reveals

Mary Gundry Crabbing Southwold Harbour

Mary Gundry Crabbing Southwold Harbour - Credit: Archant

While familiar Southwold scenes may dominate a new book of around 180 oil paintings and watercolours by Suffolk artist Mary Gundry, this first collection of her work is by no means one-dimensional.

As well as the landscapes, seascapes and townscapes of popular locations either side of the River Blyth, Drawn to Southwold showcases Mary’s much-loved figurative work and demonstrates her willingness to experiment with technique and subject.

Southwold has been attracting artists for centuries and remains a magnet for anyone with a paintbrush and easel. Turner sketched the harbour, Philip Wilson Steer applied his impressionist touch to the town, while Joseph Southall and Stanley Spencer captured life by the waves. The clear light, unsullied sea and sand, plus striking buildings and a harbourful of fishing boats ensures that painters will always ply their trade along the promenade.

Mary has strong ties with Southwold, having for several years run a gallery on the town’s High Street. She now lives in nearby Blythburgh and runs The Little Gallery in Halesworth which exhibits her own work and that of other local artists. She continues to be drawn to the pier, beaches, architecture and open spaces of Southwold, never tiring of the variety the changing seasons bring to the town.

At the bar - Lord Nelson by Mary Gundry

At the bar - Lord Nelson by Mary Gundry - Credit: Archant

In spite of the temptation to make her skies permanently blue and her water perpetually warm, Mary indulges the four seasons and all types of weather, with this portfolio also showcasing the overcast, snow-laden, wet and windswept.

Her portrayal of children at play, often around Southwold, Walberswick and Aldeburgh, has won her many fans and helps differentiate her work from that of more traditional landscape artists.

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It would be easy for Mary to slip into a creative rut, supplying local collectors and holidaymakers with variations of her most popular themes. However, her artist’s eye is quick to pick out promising subjects, no matter how diverse or technically difficult.

Having relocated her business from Southwold and opened a gallery in Halesworth, it comes as no great surprise that this gentle market town is now a regular subject. Similarly, living in that small pocket of population that is Blythburgh means she has made the most of its wonderful church and commanding presence in the Blyth Valley.

Walberswick by Mary Gundry

Walberswick by Mary Gundry - Credit: Archant

A major attraction for children in summer is crabbing at Walberswick harbour, where bridges and riverbanks become crammed with buckets and fishing lines. Mary combines her local knowledge, love of the landscape and expertise with painting children with her portfolio of crabbing and fishing studies in Walberswick.

Not all of Mary’s paintings are local landscapes or figurative work featuring children at play. She has the artist’s complete freedom to choose her subject and has compiled a disparate portfolio ranging from orchestral musicians to race goers at Ascot.

Oils, watercolour, acrylic, charcoal and mixed media are employed as she experiments with subject, technique and medium. “I am inspired to paint anything living”, she explains, “anything that moves – not just people”.

Mary has developed a philosophy that governs her art. “I am a great believer that not only does the subject have to excite you, but also the response of the medium to your handling of it is so important to achieve a satisfactory result.”

Model Yacht Pond - Mary Gundry

Model Yacht Pond - Mary Gundry - Credit: Archant

n Drawn to Southwold - Portfolio of a Suffolk Artist is available now from The Little Gallery, Halesworth, price £25