I first came to know the work of Liverpool artist Richard (Dick) Young on visits to a friend who owns several of his paintings. Every time I visited his home, I felt drawn to the images on his wall – two working class women and a child sat around the front room table laden with teapot, cups, milk bottle and jam pot, and through the window the terraced street outside; or the self-portrait seated in front of the fire grate, one elbow resting on the arm of the seat, fist clenched.
I’ve stared at these pictures for many years now, enjoying them for their directness in portraying nondescript scenes of urban working class life and admiring the muted tones and the manner in which Young has applied the paint in thick and heavy brush-strokes reminiscent of Sickert or Auerbach.
Once known as ‘ Liverpool’s best kept secret’, Dick Young was an artist who relished the life of the painter into which he poured his energies, whilst also working as an electrician. I never met him, but people who knew him well speak of him with affection, recalling a private man who largely worked alone – both as an artist and electrician – and who was not given to blowing his own trumpet. Once asked what was his great achievement, he replied, ‘rewiring the Midland Bank, Bootle, in 1962′. Yet he was a gregarious man, deeply fond of his mother and his friends – who often turn up in his paintings – and a familiar face at artists’ watering-holes and exhibition openings. Known for his mildly eccentric ways (always buying his clothes from Oxfam and never washing them until they had to be replaced from the same source, though always well turned out in collar and tie and jacket), Young lived hand-to-mouth for most of his life, growing up in the working class streets of Walton, London and Newcastle, and living for the last twenty-odd years of his life in a spartan and disordered flat on Bedford Street in Liverpool 8.
Young’s artistic career stretched from the late 1940s to the 1990s. His greatest recognition came in the years during which Liverpool’s art scene was vibrant and progressive. For most of that time, the artists that grabbed attention were avant-gardeists carrying the torch for movements like Pop Art, while the DNA of Young’s work was more traditional – so much so that he was dubbed the ‘Old Master’ by those on the art scene. Perhaps this is why Young did not receive the critical recognition and public acclaim that his work deserved, but as for himself he insisted on painting only what he knew and cared about.
Dick Young (1921 – 2003), legendary Liverpool denizen and artist, was his own master as a painter, preserving his own individuality and never associating himself with any Liverpool school or group. Much of his distinctive drawing and painting style dealt with domestic scenes (often celebrating the quiet life of his mother Nelly), interiors (inside a room looking out through a window onto a nondescript Liverpool street) or captured moments in the lives of those on the art scene who were his friends.
On this site you can learn more about Dick Young’s life and times, read articles written about his work, and browse galleries of his paintings and drawings. This is a work in progress – if you have a memory of Dick Young or thoughts about his work that you would like to share, or if you own a painting by him, I would like to hear from you.