Collections Assistant Laura Millward introduces one of her favourite artists represented in the University of Leeds Art Collection.

The University of Leeds Art Collection holds many drawings of Yorkshire traditions by artist Marie Hartley (1905-2006), which are popular with visitors when they are on display in The Stanley Audrey Burton Gallery. We also receive many enquiries about Marie’s work from researchers.

Born in Morley, Leeds, to a family of wool merchants, Marie Hartley studied at the Leeds College of Art (now Leeds Arts University) and the Slade School of Fine Art, London, where she specialised in wood engraving. After completing her studies in London, Marie returned to Yorkshire. She lived initially in Wetherby, before purchasing a cottage in Askrigg, Wensleydale, with writer Ella Pontefract.

In the 1930s and 1940s, Marie worked with Ella to illustrate studies of various aspects of the history and working life of the Yorkshire Dales. After Ella’s death in 1945, writer Joan Ingilby joined Marie in Wensleydale and together they produced seminal works on daily life in the Dales, along with many other publications. These unique records, including the artefacts which often served as studies for Marie’s drawings, are preserved at the Dales Countryside Museum, Hawes, which Marie Hartley was instrumental in founding.

Amongst the drawings included in the University of Leeds Art Collection are Marie Hartley’s mock-ups of cover designs and instructions for the printers. Without the technology available to artists and designers today, she had to draw the same image many times and in varying sizes. Marie’s pencil instructions can be seen around the image on many of her illustrations.

Marie Hartley, Grassington Bridge. Original drawing used in “The Yorkshire Dales” (1956), page 31. © Marie Hartley Estate. Image credit University of Leeds

Although synonymous with documenting the people and picturesque locations in the Yorkshire Dales, Marie, Ella and Joan also visited Yorkshire cities and industrial towns. As my journey to work is currently on hold, I’ve been appreciating Marie’s linear drawings of familiar Leeds streets and landmarks, which I would normally hurry past on my route to the University.

Marie Hartley, The Headrow, Leeds, original drawing used in “Yorkshire Tour” (1939), page 106. © Marie Hartley Estate. Image credit University of Leeds

It was pleasing to discover an interview with Marie Hartley and Joan Ingilby, discussing their work produced for The Dalesman magazine in the 1988 film The Dalesman. Marie and Joan appear 8 minutes 55 seconds into the film.

Recently, I read a charming story of Marie and Ella’s encounter with a 4-year-old girl called Alice, while researching for their book Swaledale in the 1930s. Ella described her as “Alice with the madness of the moors about her, and all their wariness.” Marie and Ella met Alice near Crackpot Hall, which was once a farmhouse near the village of Keld in Swaledale. In BBC Radio 3’s Alice at Crackpot Hall, author David Almond investigates the stories surrounding Marie and Ella’s visit and whether Alice actually existed.

Marie Hartley, Mine buildings in the dale (Swaledale). Original drawing used used as a tailpiece in “The Yorkshire Dales” (1956), page 258. © Marie Hartley Estate. Image credit University of Leeds

Marie’s detailed black and white drawings, illustrating texts by both Ella Pontefract and Joan Ingilby, bring their subject matter to life and document traditional rural industries. From hand-knitting and traditional farming methods to metalworking in Sheffield, the variety of their subjects demonstrates their passion and fascination with preserving these skills and processes — many of which were in decline at the time.

Marie Hartley and Joan Ingilby were appointed MBE in 1997, and in 1999 received honorary degrees from the Open University.