Review of ‘Peak District and Pennines’, by Reg Preston

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 8th September 2003, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

PEAK DISTRICT and PENNINES

Sitting in front of a keyboard often calls for a little extra inspiration. Today, for instance, it comes from an outdoor scene of high summer - clouds that look as if they don't mean business, a blue haze over the distant woods behind the hill and, in the foreground, a meadow knee-deep in red poppies worshipping the sun. And all this is mine, just by raising my eyes to a picture on the wall.

The artist of my 'Poppy Splendour' is Rex Preston, an internationally-acclaimed landscape painter whose originals and prints are always available from Granby Gallery in Bakewell, including at the time of writing several glorious oil paintings. This is an artist in the time-honoured tradition of those who work for love not money, so for more than 20 years he has left all commercial distractions to Michael Mosley of Granby Gallery. Says Rex, 'All I have to do is paint and frame the pictures ... my work has been extensively reproduced as fine art prints, cards and calendars without me having to get too involved.'

So there was no question but that this sumptuous new book from publishers Halsgrove would be a joint venture between Rex, his wife Sue and Mike Mosley. The choice of subjects spans the last 20 years and my 'Poppy Splendour' is there in perfect miniature, demonstrating for me the fine quality of Halsgrove's colour reproduction. Here are more than 130 illustrations including watercolours from Rex's earlier years plus a high content of more recent paintings executed in oils. The artist adds personal comments to the illustrations in addition to giving a rare and in-depth introductory interview.

Rex lives in Derbyshire and describes the Peak District as his favourite area. A true artisan to the bone, he loves most of all to put on his walking boots, leave the beaten track and perhaps trek for miles to find an irresistible spot to set up his easel. A painting of waterfalls in the Fairbrook Valley gives the impression that the artist's viewpoint was in the middle of a tumbling stream - turn over a couple of pages and there is a photograph of Rex sitting in exactly that location, the legs of his easel and chair several inches under water! A master of perfection, he will wait patiently for the ideal light even if it means staying out on the moors till dusk. And a 45-item list of essential equipment includes his oils, enabling him to capture the absolute colour in his sketches, though he may then finish the painting in the studio.

Major biennial exhibitions of Rex Preston's work are held at the Granby Gallery in Bakewell, taking place this year from Friday 10th to Saturday 18th October. The Gallery, as one of the local stockists of his book, has signed copies available.

Rex Preston's Peak District and Pennines, published by Halsgrove, is priced £24.95 (ISBN 1-84114-286-7).

Review by Julie Bunting


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