Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Reading the Painting

Resource created by Leeds Museums and Galleries | Leeds Art Gallery.

This resource is part of the Museum Snapshot collection - a collection of smaller resources perfect for starters, plenaries or spare moments to explore something fascinating.


This painting brings to mind memories and stories of the seaside. Perhaps in your imagination you can also hear the sound and smell of the beach and feel the sun on your face and the seawater mist in the air.

There is blue sky, hillside, water and lots of people relaxing.


The Beach, Runswick, oil on canvas, by Florence Hess
The Beach, Runswick by Florence Hess

In the middle of the picture two young people are seen from the back; from the angle of their bodies they could be skipping on the sand. It is interesting to ask the question, does this painting feel old fashioned?

Florence Hess was a member of an artist group who met, and at times lived, in Staithes and other places nearby for about 15 years at the end of the 19th century.

Not much is known about her life and work - why do you think some artists are very well known and others are not?

It is useful to think about who decides which artists are written or talked about.

Runswick is a small coastal village on the East Coast of England, not far from Scarborough and about two hours by car from Leeds. In the painting, pulled up onto the beach is a clinker built boat called a Coble, a typical fishing boat for the area. In the past fishing was a very good way of earning a living on the East coast, but this has changed. Finding out why can help understanding of environmental issues linked to the sea. And if you investigate more, why people are so concerned about the effects of plastic in the water and on the seashore.


Activity Ideas

  • Make sandcastle flags using sticks and scrap paper. Add messages about your feelings about the seaside and why we should look after the sea and seashore.

    See Supporting Links for more on making sandcastles.

  • Compare this artwork with 'Condor and The Mole' (2011) by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (see Supporting Links). Which one do you like the most, and why?