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Alfred James Collister

Epithet: Artist (1869-1962)

Record type: Biographies

Biography: Alfred James Collister was a Manx artist born in Kewaigue, in 1869 - to William Collister, a baker based in Douglas. In his early life, the artist studied at the Douglas School of Art - and it is thought that Collister taught as a pupil teacher at Tynwald Street School (now Fairfield School) - before furthering his studies at Royal College of Art, under Gerald Moira. Collister remained in England, and in the 1890s he became the headmaster of the Redhill Art School, Surrey. Archibald Knox was a close friend of Collister’s - gifting him an oak sideboard in the Art Deco style that he designed himself for Collister’s wedding day in 1901, where Knox served as his best man. They worked alongside each other at Redhill Art School, until 1912, at which point it is thought the two artists had a falling out. From 1898 until his retirement in 1930, Collister was headmaster of the Wimbledon School of Art and the senior master at the Kingston-upon-Thames Art School.

Although Collister was a headmaster for most of his career, he continued to paint professionally in his own time. His artwork, which mainly consisted of watercolours, was shown extensively at the Royal Society of British Artists, of which Collister was a member. The Royal Institute and Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool also exhibited Collister’s art.

Collister’s artwork is often compared to that of his friend, Archibald Knox, as both artists specialised in watercolour landscapes and the two often accompanied one another on painting trips - meaning that the two men often painted the same scene. However, their work was only similar on a superficial level. Knox concentrated on landscapes with a removed level of detail - whereas Collister’s paintings were vastly detailed, particularly in his scenes of harbours and shipping - which was popular subject matter for the artist. It is perhaps more accurate to describe Collister’s paintings as a transition between the detailed Manx views of John M. Nicholson and the more distilled and abstract watercolours of Archibald Knox.

Occupation / profession: artist

Gender: Male

Date of birth: 1869

Place of birth: Douglas, Isle of Man

Date of death: 1962

Place of death: Clymping, England


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