RAILWAY enthusiasts may have a particular affection for Andrew Keenleyside’s gloriously colourful paintings of the countryside in and around Harpenden.
For one of his favourite sources of inspiration is the “Nickey Line” – a long disused line which once linked the towns of Hemel Hempstead and Harpenden, but much of which has been redeveloped as a cycle and walking path.
The Harpenden to Hemel Hempstead branch railway ran for almost nine miles between the West Coast main line from London to Birmingham and the Midland main line from London to Leicester.
With a nickname shrouded in obscurity – there are numerous theories about its origins – passenger demand was never high and further declined in the years between the wars.
By the end of 1946 the only regular passengers on the Harpenden train were a handful of schoolchildren and when passenger services were “temporarily” suspended because of national coal shortages, the service was never reinstated.
Although the last passengers travelled on the line in June 1947, the route remains popular with cyclists and walkers, as reflected in Andrew’s paintings, which use vivid colour and expressive impasto textures to try to capture the essence of the changing seasons.
“I admire Pissarro and Sisley in terms of their compositional themes, along with Henri Mattise and the Fauves with the vivid and exciting use of colour in their palette,” says Andrew, whose work has been exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in London and is also represented in private collections in the USA, the Far East, South Africa and Europe.
Freight services continued to run over part of the route until 1979, but while some of the line has disappeared under houses and roads, sections of the route remain recognisable, including some bridges and sections of embankment which feature in Andrew’s pictures.
Back in August 2020, it was one of his paintings which was used to kick-start our Picture of the Week series. He is a regular exhibitor at the annual Herts Visual Arts open studios event, which this year again includes a wide range of virtual galleries and demonstrations.
Events run from until October 10, with more than 60 venues opening their doors to visitors. The full programme can be found on the Herts Visual Arts website.