Jack Rigg Marine Artist

Jack Rigg - Marine Artist

1927 - 2023

Yorkshire born Jack Rigg was a self-taught marine artist who spent the best part of 80 years of his life sketching and painting, from fishing vessels around the coast of the UK and Thames sailing barges to Merchant and Naval vessels.

Such is the intimacy and accuracy of his work that many of his admirers were members of the fishing community he painted.

Jack Rigg Marine Artist in his early 40’s before turning professional
Jack in his early 40’s before turning professional
The story of

Jack Rigg

Jack was born in 1927 in Farsley, Leeds. From early childhood Jack loved to draw, though finding paper was a problem as money was scarce when he was young. When Jack was 5 years old he visited Whitby with his Grandad, this was his first sight of the sea and it had a profound effect on him. In his memoir, Jack wrote ‘I will never forget that day, it was my first sight of the sea, and I could not stop trying to draw it on any piece of paper I could lay my hands on’.

At 14, Jack left school and started his working life in the textile industry at Sunny Bank Mills in Farsley. He also joined the Bradford Sea Cadets and was a member for 3 years.

In 1944, at 17 years old, Jack volunteered to join the Royal Navy and was called up in 1945, just as the war was ending. Nevertheless, he served onboard for two years, a period of his life that entrenched his love for the sea and inspired him to become a marine artist.

After his discharge, Jack returned home to Farsley and went back to work in the textile mills, in his own words ‘a dreadful place to work’.

It wasn’t until 1978 that, with the support of his wife Shirley, Jack finally gave up full-time work in the hope of making it as an artist. With no formal art education at all, this self-taught family man could tackle almost any subject and his work began to sell locally from the outset, Jack was finally doing what he had dreamed of for many years.

Jack’s paintings began as sketches, he could often be found in the harbour with his wellingtons on, sketching the details that would later come together in a work of art that captured the very essence of the sea, and the ships that were before him on that day.

Jack Rigg Marine Artist at work
Jack Rigg Marine Artist with the Duchess of York signing number 1 of 25 Jack Rigg limited edition prints in 1992
The Duchess of York signing number 1 of 25 Jack Rigg limited edition prints in 1992

From initial sketches to final brush strokes, one of Jack’s paintings could be three months in the making, his work was soon in high demand, and he found himself taking commissions from vessel owners and maritime organisations.

A selection of Jack Rigg’s paintings have been displayed at Buckingham palace since 1991 when a limited-edition print of the Sir Winston Churchill was signed by Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York and subsequently auctioned for the charity The Sail Training Association.

For numerous years his paintings were used by the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen for their annual charity Christmas card.

At 90 years old, Jack was commissioned by the Viola Trust to paint a ship called the ‘Viola’, that had been built in Beverley in 1906.  This has been considered one of his finest paintings. The Viola is the oldest surviving steam trawler with her engines intact.  She is currently in South Georgia and funds were being raised to try and bring her back to Hull.

Jack stopped painting at the age of 92 and passed away peacefully in his studio in 2023 at 95 … a blank canvas still on his easel.

Jack Rigg Marine Artist - In The Studio

A selection of Jack’s works that have been sold and are now in private collections around the world

A Lifetime In Sketches

Jack Rigg Marine Artist Sketching Hull Docks
Sketching Hull Docks

Each of Jack’s paintings started as a sketch.

Some are full and complete sketches of the proposed painting. Other sketches contain the details, the position of the sun, the way a rope passes over a cleat, the numerous lines of running and standing rigging, the seagulls that hovered over the fishing vessels.

These sketches enabled Jack to later stand at his easel and recreate the details of the scene before him on that day, a true record of what the artist saw. The resulting work of art was both technically correct due to his many sketches of the details and captured the nuances of weather and sea state; the realism of his paintings almost enables the viewer to breathe-in the salt-laden sea air that would have enveloped Jack as he stood sketching in the harbour in all weather and seasons.

As part of his legacy and to honour his memory, we (his sons, Michael and Ian) have curated a collection of Jack’s finest sketches that are now available to purchase from Amazon as a Kindle eBook for £3.

The book contains a selection of 100 original and diverse sketches that have been scanned directly from his sketch books, providing a fine insight into his life’s work.

‘I will never forget that day, it was my first sight of the sea, and I could not stop trying to draw it on any piece of paper I could lay my hands on’.

A Lifetime in Sketches by Jack Rigg

Please contact us if you would like a catalogue of Jack Rigg’s work as below.

“He would often go into the harbour with his wellingtons on to get a feel of the perspective and make sketches from there for his painting.”

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