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10th October 2008, 1:00am

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North Ayrshire’s museums education department is using an exhibition of work by a local, self-taught artist, who died 70 years ago, as the focus for an imaginative cross-curricular schools project in Ardros-san, Saltcoats and Stevenston.

Virtually unknown now, Robert Workman was a successful businessman in Saltcoats who produced charming watercolours of scenes that were bought by tourists to the area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. An exhibition of his paintings, complemented by period postcards and photographs, has been mounted at North Ayrshire Museum in Saltcoats, where it will run until December.

Workman’s detailed pictures of cobbled streets, harbour scenes, horse-drawn carts and women in tartan shawls provide a fascinating record of architecture, industry and community life in Victorian Saltcoats. Pupils involved in the project will visit the exhibition for artist-led tours, followed by a walk around the town to photograph the places he depicted and see what changes have occurred since he painted his scenes more than 100 years ago. The project also includes artist-led workshops in schools, continuing professional development and elements of language, enterprise and ICT.

Morag McNicol, manager of the museum, says: “Although Workman was self-taught, he went on to exhibit at the Royal Scottish Academy. He was encouraged by the painter Sir John Lavery, who spent part of his childhood in Saltcoats and became a friend. It is thanks to this exhibition that we know that Lavery’s interest in art was sparked while he was here and met a commercial traveller who drew scenes of the places he visited. The information is contained in a letter from Lavery to Workman, which was brought in by one of his grandsons still living locally and now in his eighties.”

T: 01294 464174.

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