Sheffield painter Joe Scarborough’s love letter to his ‘big village’ home city

A new exhibition celebrating one of Sheffield’s best-loved artists is set to open at Weston Park Museum this weekend (Saturday, August 17).

Tuesday, 13th August 2019, 4:11 pm
Updated Thursday, 15th August 2019, 12:31 pm
 Joe Scarborough, Union Hotel. Image ©
Joe Scarborough, Union Hotel. Image ©

Painter Joe Scarborough has affectionately documented Sheffield’s history in glorious technicolour in a career spanning more than 50 years.

His beautifully-detailed work has always proved popular for evoking the atmosphere of the city that he grew up in.

That has also succeeded in bringing back vivid memories for his fans of their own childhoods and earlier years.

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Sheffield artist Joe Scarborough, who lives and works on his narrow boat in Victoria Quays. Picture: Tony Johnson

Joe Scarborough – Life in the Big Village has brought together more than 60 paintings and drawings for the first time in over 25 years.

Joe was born in Pitsmoor in 1937. He first began to paint having spent six years working at Thorpe Hesley Colliery and as a miner found his inspiration in the colour and light above ground.

After selling his first painting “for a fiver”, Joe left the pit and took several labouring jobs which allowed him to paint in the morning and evening.

Support from a sponsor, Cyril Caplin, gave Joe a life-changing opportunity to focus on his artwork.

Joe Scarborough, 5pm on the Canal. Image ©

He went on develop the style and content of his paintings, moving from clipper ships, his favoured early subject, to the depictions of everyday life seen in his work today.

He held his first exhibition in 1973 and has gone on to see his work proudly displayed in private homes and public galleries across the world.

In 2008, Joe was commemorated with Sheffield Legends status on the Walk of Fame outside the city’s Town Hall.

Joe Scarborough has been commissioned to paint many famous Sheffield landmarks, including the University of Sheffield, the National Emergency Services Museum and Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

Joe Scarborough, Beer Store on Bramall Lane. Image ©

Life in the Big Village will feature works spanning the breadth of Joe’s career.

Street Fight (2008) celebrates Joe’s love of film and theatre. The vibrant tableau scene includes many cinematic motifs.

Inspired by silent cinema, westerns and slapstick, the painting also includes a Sheffield icon – the Granelli’s ice cream van.

Washing Day at Pitsmoor (2018) pays tribute to his schooldays and childhood home, celebrating the familiar domestic scene of laundry pegged on a washing line.

Joe Scarborough, Robert Sorby and Son. Image ©

Featuring a panoramic view over Sheffield, the painting also includes what Joe calls the “international symbol of happiness” – a row of cloth nappies.

Aston Water Heater (2017) is a homage to his grandmother’s post-war home.

Joe commemorates “the greatest invention – an Aston water heater”. Having spent much of his childhood at his grandmother’s home, for Joe these “little palaces” symbolise change “and things getting better”.

Joe said: “From the start of my career my paintings have been inspired by Sheffield and the people who live here.

“I’ve always seen the city as my native village – from the local pubs and parks to places where people work and live.”

Liz Waring, curator of visual art at Museums Sheffield, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to be celebrating Joe Scarborough and his work at Weston Park Museum.

Joe Scarborough, Street Fight. Image ©

“His paintings are a real love letter to Sheffield and its people and it’s fantastic to be able to bring so many of them together in one exhibition.”

Joe Scarborough: Life in the Big Village is sponsored by Turner and Townsend.

The show is open from Saturday, August 17 to Sunday, November 24.

Entry to the exhibition is free.

Joe Scarborough, Royal Exchange. Image ©