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Normandy artist Nigel Stewart is forever Lancashire

PUBLISHED: 11:23 05 April 2011 | UPDATED: 19:09 20 February 2013

Normandy artist Nigel Stewart

Normandy artist Nigel Stewart

Artist Nigel Stewart may have left these shores but his heart is still in the red rose county

There is a corner of some Parisian apartment wall that will be forever Lancashire. To be more precise, forever Rivington.

The Japanese Garden there was inspired by Lord and Lady Levers trip to the Orient and it was created by the great Lancashire landscape designer Thomas Mawson in 1922. Years later, it inspired artist Nigel Stewart, who was born in Bury.

His oil painting of the garden was spotted at an exhibition by a French woman who fell in love with it and purchased it for her 17-year-old daughter. It now adorns her Paris home.

Nigel, whose parents still live at Harwood near Bolton, may have moved on from Lancashire but he remains an ambassador for the red rose county and he hopes to stage an exhibition here one day.

There are two strands to life in his adopted home of Normandy, where he lives with his French wife, Christine, and teenage sons.

The first is painting - he studied at Bolton College of Art and Design followed by a BA and then an MA in fine arts. He has exhibited many times across the Channel and his work is in private collections in Europe and the US and he also teaches. Most of his scenes are inspired by the same stretches of French coastline that inspired the Impressionists but occasionally he returns to his roots with a Lancashire scene.

His other life is as an official guide to the D-Day beaches and the poignant wartime graveyards that add a dash of melancholy to this beautiful landscape.

The work as a guide has brought him full circle, looking after the occasional group of British veterans who have included members of the South Lancashire Regiment, among the first to land on Sword Beach in Normandy on D-Day. Many never returned.

There was a huge amount of blood-letting here among the troops and
the civilians and when you see the stunning landscape its hard to connect the two. I think this beauty and melancholy fire the impressionist side to my work.

I spend time with people who come across here looking for the young friends they left behind and when they find the graves its a speechless moment. We had a coach with an elderly lady who had never left England before but wanted to see her brothers grave before she, too, was no longer here. Its a very humbling experience.

He and wife Christine, who teaches English, come back to Lancashire regularly and his boys regard it as home from home. They even anguish over who to support during the rugby internationals between England and France.

I was homesick recently - its probably something to do with hitting your 40s and realising you are at a crossroads. But it would be very
difficult to move the boys from school at this stage.

Meanwhile, winter is for painting and summer brings the visitors wanting a fully qualified guide. I always tell them Im trilingual - English, French and Lancastrian!


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