The Northern Boys: An exhibition celebrating plein air painting

6 - 21 April 2019

Have you looked out from a Manchester tram to see a figure before an easel, stooped under an umbrella, painting furiously in the driving rain? Chances are, you’ve seen one of The Northern Boys — the distinguished outdoor painting group — nine of the North’s finest plein air painters, dedicated professionals and friends. (Well, you’d have to be dedicated, wouldn’t you?)


For two weeks from Saturday 6 April, the inaugural group exhibition of the The Northern Boys will be on display at Contemporary Six, a leading independent art gallery in Manchester city centre. Each of the nine artists will contribute a number of plein air paintings to the collection, from Manchester, Venice, London, and more, and after enjoying a 2018 full of awards and accolades from across the nation — now is the time to take notice.


Though each member has his own style, the group are united in their love for painting outdoors, “en plein air. This hazardous process, requiring fortitude against the Great British weather and inquisitive public, lends an unmistakable freshness and energy to the paintings.


Alex Reuben owner of Contemporary Six says: “Painting outdoors creates work that is always distinctly of the moment in which it was created, and yet timeless.


This is a quality found in the work of The Northern Boys — whether it be the evening-silhouetted domes of Italy, the lapping shores of Blackpool promenade, or the low beams of petrol-soaked cities. Life, as perceived by the artist, shines through.”


Membership of this remarkably accomplished group incorporates four Gallery-artists: Rob Pointon, Adam Ralston, Norman Long, and Michael Ashcroft, along with Ian Layton, Chris Slater, Steven Smith, Andrew Farmer, and David Allen.


En plein air

Perhaps mostly associated with the Impressionists and the Barbizon school, the method of painting en plein air, outdoors in natural light and weather, owes much to two small inventions that artists today take for granted. During the mid-19th Century, the introduction of the box easel and paints in tubes allowed artists to take their materials with them wherever they went, and with this freeing ability to roam came the compulsion for artists to capture not just a point in space, but also a point in time. To depict not a fixed, unchanging landscape, but to inject the canvas with a sense of movement, spirit, and life.


Contemporary Six, 37 Princess St, Manchester, M2 4FN


T: 0161 835 2666


Opening hours:

Tue–Fri: 10.30am–6pm

Saturday: 10.30am–5pm

Sunday: 11am–5pm.