One of the last of the great painters associated with St Ives’ 50s heyday has died peacefully at home at the age of 98. As his son Stephen remarked at a wake in celebration of Bob’s long life, it is possibly a better achievement to die at 98 having been a regular skier in the Swiss alps until the age of 90 than to hang on until 100 for a telegram from Her Majesty!
But with regard to achievement, Bob Crossley’s finest achievement must be the production of a huge body of superb painted works of art across a period of over 60 years, many of which will survive for many generations to come. Here at Belgrave St Ives, we were lucky enough to show Bob’s work regularly in solo and mixed exhibitions over the 12 years the gallery has been in the town, creating a close working and personal relationship with a man and artist we all held in very high regard. His loss will be felt keenly here.
In the words of Gallery Director Michael Gaca:
I first met Bob when my then wife and I came to St Ives to set up the Belgrave Gallery in 1998, he was one of the first artists we met here and then a sprightly mere 86 years old. Once I got used to his broad Lancashire accent I was captivated by his erudite views on painting and his generosity – two qualities he dispensed energetically and freely to younger artists and art enthusiasts.
It soon became obvious this was a man of fierce independence and determination – his work over 6 decades demonstrating an unshakeable integrity.
I had purchased a sixties painting before meeting Bob but once I had been to his studio at Porthmeor I was amazed by the amount of high quality art ranging from early academic and Northern School expressionistic figures through the transitional colourful abstracts of the 60s, undoubtedly effected by the move to St Ives, culminating in the autonomous and spontaneous freely painted colour field and brushstroke paintings of the later decades.
Bob achieved good commercial success throughout his career having exhibitions in prestigious galleries in Manchester, London and Spain and regularly here at the Penwith Galleries. He also sold his work frequently to art lovers who found their way to his studio where his Northern charm won over many novice collectors.
He was also pleased to be included in a Tate St Ives exhibitions in 1999 and 2007.
We were fortunately placed to show Bob’s work here in St Ives from the late 90s and it was a pleasure to host the book launch of his autobiography at the Belgrave last year.
One advantage an artist has when they are no longer with us as a person is the legacy they leave to both their families and public through their life’s work and we are very lucky that Bob has left us such riches. It is interesting that quite young new art lovers are attracted to Bob’s aesthetic and his hard edge 1970s colourful screenprints are eagerly bought by young people buying art for their first home.
Bob Crossley will be missed but never forgotten.
As Bob always said, ‘Cheers lad!’