In his early years he was a book keeper at his father’s corn mill in Newcastle, before moving out to South Africa with a friend where he ran a store from a horse-drawn shop in the diamond fields. On his return to Tyneside in 1881 he lived at Forest Hall and became a full time professional artist.
Slater later married Sarah Ann Atkinson and rented a house at Killingworth in which all their children were born. In 1912, he and his family moved to Whitley Bay.
Slater painted in both oil and watercolour mediums across a wide subject range, but was most noted for his landscape and seascape scenes. He was described as a sociable, articulate man who was highly skilled and multi-talented, and even patented a collapsible style of easel.
Slater was recognised as being one of the earliest British artists to adopt the impressionist technique of painting and was known as the “Weatherproof Artist” because of his habit of painting outdoors, often in extreme climatic conditions – especially seascapes and coastal scenes. He was an expert at depicting the wild water and many moods of the North Sea on the shores of the area where he lived.
For those years when the impressionist style of painting was unpopular, Slater also turned out traditional paintings to support his family of four children.
Slater was a member of the Cullercoats Artists’ Colony and the Bewick Club and he also became president of the North East Art Club, based in Whitley Bay.
Many of his paintings were exhibited extensively in the local area, including the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, with many others being exhibited in London, Scotland and other provinces, which included the Walker Gallery in Liverpool, Manchester City Art Gallery and also at the Royal Academy.
Despite this, he sometimes found it difficult to make a living; however at the age of 61, and with 19 works shown at the Royal Academy, Slater began the most fulfilling phase of his career as he was free to indulge his enthusiasm for impressionism without having to sell his work. This resulted in over 300 unsold pictures by the time he died at the age of 80. He also received a stream of commissions for lucrative portrait work during post-war years.
Perhaps one of Slater’s most notable works is a 1905 panorama of Cullercoats Bay. Another of his works, ‘Stormy Sea at Cullercoats’ is presently in the North Tyneside Council art collection.
Up to his death in 1937, he spent the last 12 years of his life in the Victorian terrace house at 19 St Oswin’s Avenue Cullercoats, which was recognised with a blue plaque on the 75th anniversary of his death. He is buried in Whitley Bay Cemetery.
by Charlie Steel © 2014
Further reading for many of Charlie’s articles can be found in his books: ‘Monkseaton Village’ (Vol. 1 & 2), North Shields Public Houses, Inns & Taverns’ (Part 1 & 2) and ‘Tynemouth Remembered’ all published by Summerhill Books.