Garth Al­lan 1935 – 2017

Canal Boat - - News -

WELL-KNOWN wa­ter­ways artist and canal sup­porter Garth Al­lan has died.

From the 1980s on­wards he was a fa­mil­iar sight at wa­ter­ways fes­ti­vals, with his home-built stand dis­play­ing wa­ter­ways and coastal wa­ter­colours. Such was his recog­ni­tion that he was given free stand space at the 1991 Lon­don Boat Show at Earls Court, where the theme of the year was the re­viv­ing canals, with a mock canal­side vil­lage spon­sored by Bri­tish Wa­ter­ways.

For a man with no for­mal train­ing, Garth had as­ton­ish­ingly man­aged for many years to live off his art, in­clud­ing pub­lish­ing Christ­mas and greet­ings cards of his paint­ings, and as a pic­ture framer. To­gether with Al­lan Firth (by con­trast a fully trained artist and re­tired art teacher who painted in gouache) – he was prob­a­bly the great­est wa­ter­ways artist of his time. Both achieved that rare thing: an in­stantly recog­nis­able and unique style of good pop­u­lar paint­ing.

Born into a mid­dle-class Birm­ing­ham fam­ily, he grad­u­ated in engi­neer­ing, be­com­ing man­ag­ing director of a multi-na­tional book­bind­ing busi­ness. How­ever two things were in his blood – canals and paint­ing. When he mar­ried Anne, they moved onto the for­mer work­ing nar­row­boat, The Nau­tilus, in Birm­ing­ham’s Gas Street Basin. Dur­ing those five years afloat, Garth be­came chair­man of the Staffs & Worcs Canal So­ci­ety, and in 1962 led a mas­sive cam­paign which re­sulted in the sav­ing of the 16 locks of the Stour­bridge Flight.

De­spite his artis­tic achieve­ments, he set far greater store on his five years in this role. “I would cer­tainly like to think I have left the world a bet­ter place, but of the many things in which I have been in­volved, the Bat­tle of the Stour­bridge Canal is the one ac­tiv­ity I would like to think achieved that aim,” he said.

Garth and Anne later moved to Guild­ford, where he de­cided to be­come a full-time artist, build­ing his Lime Tree Stu­dio in his house. He had other in­ter­ests in­clud­ing an elec­tric train that ran around his stu­dio, bee-keep­ing, a pas­sion for ball­room danc­ing and sing­ing in sev­eral choirs.

In the early 1980s, Garth was a founder mem­ber of the Guild of Wa­ter­way Artists which flour­ishes to this day, aim­ing to truth­fully de­pict all as­pects of the wa­ter­ways and ‘to pro­mote ex­cel­lence in Wa­ter­ways art.’

Garth last dis­played at the 2014 Braun­ston His­toric Nar­row­boat Rally in the Guild of Wa­ter­ways Artists mar­quee. But he con­tin­ued with his paint­ing al­most to the end.

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