Robert J. Clitherow was born in Saffron Walden, Essex, the son of Robert William Clitherow (1907-1996) and his wife Millicent Helen M. née Huxley (1910-1986). He was a student at Colchester School of Art. In 1963 he received a scholarship to the Royal Academy Schools which he attended for four years between 1963 and 1967. There he won the David Murray Travelling Scholarship for three successive years and also received the School’s bronze medal for painting. He became a good friend of John Nash (1893-1977) (q.v.) who exercised a strong influence on Robert’s work, particularly in the use of watercolour. He was also very much influenced by Edward Bawden (1903-1989) who knew him at RA school. Robert lived in Whepstead and in Sudbury, both in Suffolk. He was a member of Gainsborough’s House Print Workshop and the Ipswich Art Club.
A number of his paintings are in private collections around the world and one painting hangs in the Public Art Gallery, Ipswich. He had a landscape of Cumberland made into a print by Pike Print Patrons, Caldbeck, Cumbria and exhibited in London, including at the Royal Academy Summer exhibitions and in East Anglia (see below).
There is a photograph of Robert Clitherow at the Seven Springs Gallery in Ashwell, Hertfordshire, with the Gallery owner Marie Whitby (d.2015) during an exhibition of his work in 1990. The photograph was published by the Royston Crow, the local newspaper.
He was a member of Colchester Art Society from 1968 to 1981.
The similarities between Robert Clitherow’s watercolour work and those of John Nash, Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious are striking in this painting. The subtlety of colour and tonal range used here is especially skillful in the delicate patchwork of greens and blues evoking the English countryside. Lighter than oil, watercolour has always been a popular medium in British landscape painting traditions, expressing the artist’s natural sympathy with the environment, and Clitherow’s isolation of abstract details in Orchard recalls the way Nash and Ravilious also perceived the underlying structures of a rural scene transforming them into clearly defined patterns.
1968-1971, 1973 and 1977, Colchester Art Society
1974 The Royal Academy, Robert Clitherow, solo exhibition
1978 The Minories, Colchester, Enid Crowther and R Clitherow, CAS sponsored
1980 Ipswich Art Club, Harwich Ship and Aldeburgh Lifeboat (from “Hermon”, Mickley Green, Whepstead, near Bury St Edmunds)
c.1981 Royal Academy Schools, London
1990 Ipswich Art Club, Silver Peacock (from “Hermon”, Mickley Green, Whepstead, near Bury St Edmunds, as above)
1990 Seven Springs Gallery, Ashwell, Hertfordshire
He also exhibited at Aldeburgh, Suffolk – Holt, Norfolk – The Minories, Colchester – The Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds and Bury St Edmunds Art Gallery as well as at the Crane Kalman Gallery and the Mall Galleries, London.
The Ashwell Village Museum archives: photograph of Robert Clitherow and Marie Whitby at the Ashwell Village Museum - catalogue number: P4548; date: 11.1990; location: Pict 23; contact Peter Greener, Curator of the Museum.