The three ancient Ridings of Yorkshire and the adjoining Humber estuary are home to some of Britain’s most dramatic and beautiful landscape and greatest industrial cities. The landscape, its history and its tradition of artistic patronage have attracted and nourished artists for centuries, from the antiquarians and travellers of the eighteenth century and the Romantic artists of the early nineteenth, including J. M. W. Turner, who had a special relationship with the region, to Hockney in the twentieth. The ancient port of Hull was the centre of a school of marine and ship painters. Leeds, Bradford and Sheffield produced rich new patrons who encouraged contemporary artists such as Atkinson Grimshaw. At the end of the century improved transport links enabled isolated and picturesque fishing villages such as Staithes to become home to artists’ colonies.

The wild hills and coastland, spectacular medieval castles and ruined abbeys of the North East all made attractive subjects for intrepid artists in the eighteenth century. The old landed gentry grew wealthy on the exploitation of their coalfields and commissioned fashionable London portrait painters. In the early nineteenth century rapid industrialisation produced a wealthy middle class who supported local artists and art institutions and a school of northern artists developed, several of whom achieved national reputations. Paintings reflecting local aspects of the industrial revolution are of particualr interest. The Government School of Design in Newcastle, under William Bell Scott, encouraged a regional Pre-Raphaelite movement. 

North East ports supported specialist maritime artists and ship painters, and some smaller fishing harbours such as Cullercoats attracted artists colonies recording the picturesque lives of the North Sea fisherfolk. In the mid-twentieth century Newcastle was home to several of Britain’s pioneering abstract and Pop artists such as Victor Pasmore and Richard Hamilton.