Harry Epworth Allen

Harry Epworth Allen was a painter, notably in tempera, known especially for his landscape works and for the painting of his locale, Derbyshire.

Epworth Allen was born in Sheffield, in 1894, to Elizabeth Epworth Allen (née Blacktin) and Henry Allen, a steel mark maker. He attended King Edward VII School for boys before becoming a clerk at Arthur Balfour and Co, Steelworks. Here he excelled, eventually becoming Balfour’s private secretary, but he left his employment during World War One, and enlisted with the Royal Garrison Artillery of the Regular Army. He became an assistant to an Observation Officer (who directs artillery fire to a target when the target is out of sight of those firing) before both were posted to France and the front line. Here, five months after arriving, they were caught by heavy shelling and the Officer was buried, unable to extricate himself from a dug-out. Allen helped release the Officer but experienced further massive incoming fire which resulted in severe shrapnel bruising, and after hospitalization, the loss of one leg through amputation.

Allen had shown promise as an artist from the beginning. Whilst working at Arthur Balfour’s he attended Sheffield Technical School of Art, and during the War he used his skills to sketch enemy positions and equipment in the field. After his injury he was discharged, but he continued to sketch and paint. He married Lucy Hodder in 1925, and in 1931 he took up painting full time. He joined several artist’s societies: the Sheffield Society of Artists; Hallamshire Art Society and the Pastel Society, but he also exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy, and continued to do so until his death in 1958.

Allen’s work was initially realistic, but he developed a distinctive style of simplified landscape and figure studies. His main concern throughout was the depiction of landscape, of toil and of the kinds of recreation associated with the working landscape. He paints labourers threshing; bringing home the cows; chopping the wood; sheep-dog trials and village allotments. Sometimes the images are surreal – he is recognized especially in his later works as belonging to the surrealist school – but mostly they are depictions of a realistic landscape seen through a unique but also appreciative gaze.


Public Collections holding work by Harry Epworth Allen include:

The Hepworth, Wakefield; Buxton Museum and Art Gallery; Glynn Vivian Art Gallery; Derby Museum and Art Gallery; Museums Sheffield.

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