IF YOU paint in public places you must get used to the critical stares of others as you work.

The Keighley watercolour artist Frances Watson Sunderland painted local scenes around Keighley and elsewhere in Yorkshire and had to toughen herself to this experience, although sometimes it grated on her.

In 1937 she described an incident, whilst painting at Whitby, to the Leeds Mercury newspaper.

Frances was painting a harbour scene when a woman and a young girl took up position behind her.

“They remained probably half an hour and the lady (?) gave the girl a lesson on my work.

“’She is making that paler because it is further away’ is one remark I remember.

“Now I am too hardened to be bothered with anyone watching me work, but what fixed it in my memory was the absolute rudeness of it, as they never spoke to me or asked if I minded being watched.

“The Whitby children are priceless; they like to watch but they are never a nuisance as visitors’ children often are.

“One boy will take it on to keep the other children at bay – ‘keep out of the woman’s way’ – but he always keeps a front place for himself.

I have always found that people in the poorer part of any town are better behaved in this respect.”

Frances was born in Keighley in 1866. Her father, Wilkinson Watson, was a local butcher.

She showed artistic talent from an early aged and, aged 14, she began to study art at Keighley School of Art and Crafts, where she later taught there for much of her working life.

In 1908 she married Asa Sunderland, a local plumber.

She became a familiar figure in Keighley, seated on a stool, sketching and painting the older parts of town.

Her work now provides an important social record of streets and buildings in the town, many now demolished.

Frances’s painting of the Keighley market, for example, with women in shawls, offers a vivid 1920s view on the town’s outdoor market, which was replaced by an indoor market in 1971.

Frances was also an active member of the Keighley Art Club, who in 1946, toward the end of her life, staged an exhibition of ninety of her watercolours.

Briggs Brothers (Printers) of Keighley bought many examples of her artwork and displayed them in Keighley Town Hall.

She also, for 50 years, mounted an annual exhibition of her paintings in her own studio/home at Scott Street. In January 1966 Keighley Library also organised a retrospective exhibition of her work.

Frances’s paintings were also widely exhibited outside the town, including at Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, and at Royal Cambrian Academy shows.

In 1910 her work featured in a prestigious exhibition of Northern counties art at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle.

The Bradford Museums and Galleries Service, at Cliffe Castle Museum, has an extensive collection of her paintings on display.

Frances died in 1949.

* Colin Neville would be interested to hear from anyone who has a photograph of Frances Watson Sunderland, for him to add to his profile of the artist on the Not Just Hockney website. Visit notjusthockney.info.