IT felt incongruous, says Timothy Dickson, standing in Halifax, Canada, looking at a painting of cottages in Bents Green. Hanging next to it in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia was a picture of Baslow Bridge.
“The scenes are so quintessentially Sheffield and Derbyshire,” he says. “It was strange to see them being admired by people on the other side of the world.”
In fact, to admire the works - done by celebrated Shiregreen artist Stanley Royle - was why Timothy had travelled there.
Back in 1986, he had walked into Sheffield’s Mappin Art Gallery on a whim, saw an exhibition by the landscape painter, and has been researching his life ever since.
“I was so impressed I went out to buy a book about him,” says the 45-year-old of Hillsborough. “But there weren’t any. I decided then and there I should do one.”
It has taken more than two decades, thousands of air miles and the odd surreal moment, but this month that book is released.
“Royle has never been recognised like he should have been,” says Timothy, a stage technician with Sheffield Theatres by day. “His work hangs in galleries from Paris to Toronto and Dublin, and most of those are paintings of scenes from around Sheffield, but a lot of people here don’t know about him.
“I think that’s because he was a typical Sheffielder. He knew what he was doing was great but he never boasted about it.”
The book aims to put that right. Not only does it include some 100 images of Royle’s work - notably of Sheffield from Wincobank, Dobbin Hill Farm in Ecclesall and Whiteley Woods - it also charts the remarkable life of the man himself.
“He had a shock of ginger hair, always wore a trilby and was rarely seen without a fag,” says Timothy. “I’ve interviewed a lot of older people who remember seeing him around. They say he always tipped his hat.”
He was born in Stalybridge in 1888 but his family moved to Ecclesfield when he was five. He was raised there and then Shiregreen, and attended the city’s Technical School of Art before starting to exhibit professionally - including at the Royal Academy in London aged just 23.
By then he lived with wife Lily, who he met at a city skating rink, in the Mayfield Valley.
“But, with the war and the depression, even the best artists struggled to make money,” explains Timothy.
As such, he emigrated to Canada in 1933 where his reputation grew and his paintings were slowly bought by galleries and art lovers across the world. Some 20 were donated to the city of Sheffield.
“There’s a nice synchronicity in that there are images of Canada here” says Timothy. “I like to think of a Canadian looking at them and having the same feeling as I did looking at that picture of Bents Green in Canada.”
Royle returned to the UK - to North Nottinghamshire - in 1945 before passing away in 1961.
“To me,” he noted shortly before he died of old age, “painting is just a glorious adventure.”
Stanley Royle An Enduring Legacy is published by Derwent-Wye and available in bookshops now.