My father would get home from work just before our bedtime, always in his work tie and company jumper, even though he worked in a garage fixing cars, for the most part, British Leyland cars, yes – it was that long ago. He would have his tea, and play with us/read a story briefly until we were banished to the bedroom. But then he would do these things, usually for us, sometimes for him that were maybe more creative than changing the cam-belt on a Mini Metro. I remember building a fort from scratch, Marquetry (briefly), Watercolour painting, arranging my (i.e. his) stamp collection, and painting my toy soldiers. He also claimed to be learning the Trombone, in secret, a bare-faced lie that convinced me enough to search my parents bedroom for the said offending object, all to no avail.
Another possibly more creative person who spent evenings possibly more productively was much neglected Sheffield artist Leonard Beaumont (1891-1986). He spent his days working at the Sheffield Telegraph – its thought largely designing adverts, but in his evenings he took art classes, and then began creating his own pieces – largely lino-prints (on a printer he built himself) and drawings. These striking images were at first local scenes, of men working in steelworks and the like, and then became influences by his travels abroad on holiday. Although his work is similar to more influential artists working here and abroad at the same time, he was more of a lone provincial voice, ploughing his own furrow.
He left his hometown for the big lights of London in 1937, when his etching stopped. According to a 1983 interview ‘I didn’t have time and besides nobody made any money out of them in the 20s and 30s’. In the same interview, he comments on his style of working, saying ‘ I worked mostly from imagination. I never took photographs or made rough sketches. You would never identify the scenes I etched.’
London afforded him a more lucrative career of commercial designer. Working for clients such as the GPO (his posters from this era are very collectible) and United Artists, until 1950 when he was appointed design consultant for Sainsburys, and was largely behind branding the supermarket in a stylish and cohesive way.
Not much more is known about the artist, other than shortly before his death in 1986 he donated around 80 works to the city’s Museums. He said at the time ‘I had all these etchings and lino-cuts I had done in Sheffield, and I asked myself what I was going to do with them all – just let them float about? The Victoria and Albert and the British Museum already have some of them, so I thought it would be best that they came back to Sheffield’.
At Sheffield’s Graves gallery right now and until the 14th September is a chance for the people of Sheffield and the wider public to discover, or in some cases rediscover the work of an underrated and striking artist. He may have been streets in front of my father in most evening pursuits, but I still back my father over him with a Mini Metro oil change. And maybe, even the Trombone.