Britain’s greatest painter (?), J. M. W. Turner, first visited Margate aged 11, his parents having sent him there to school in Love Lane. He returned to sketch in the town 10 years later and from the 1820s onwards was a regular visitor. More than 100 of Turner’s works, paintings and drawings, were inspired by Margate and the East Kent coast. He explained to the writer and art critic John Ruskin, that “…the skies over Thanet are the loveliest in all Europe”. The orientation of the coast bathes the town in soft north light with a quality unique to this part of Kent and it drew Turner back time and again. He loved the sea, the skies and his landlady with benefits, Mrs Booth.
The tradition of painting the light continues. Michael Richardson runs the Margate Harbour Arm Gallery converted from coal silos. He is an English modern impressionist painter working in watercolour and oils; and is a member of the Wapping Group of Artists, probably the oldest outdoor painting society in the UK. His main interest now is in plein air painting, enjoying the challenge of working fast in all weathers in front of the subject. He passes on his skills to classes along the Margate Steps. When we visited he was preparing to depart, swallow-like, for several weeks painting in Venice. You can take just so much Kentish plein air in November.
Photos: Margate steps, October 2018