I understand that the duty used to be discharged annually by the new Mayor but in recent years the practice has lapsed somewhat. In truth the same pictures have hung there for so long I doubt if anyone has looked at them for a good while and of course if they were to be taken down they would reveal a rather obvious need for redecoration. Well my luck was in as this is the year that the parlour gets a fresh lick of paint.
I was assisted in my task by Stephen Whittle who is Atkinson's resident picture expert. As we entered the storage room in gallery one picture at the farthest end of the first rack and the edge of my vision made me pause and look. Steve Whittle had prepared a long list of options for me to consider and was already sliding out an English Impressionist landscape of Ormskirk, I had logged the modern painting with the women in the vivid pink dress and wanted to look at it more closely. After we had worked our way through more English Impressionists and I had been shown my folly in considering Samuel Lawson Booth we at last returned to the modern painting in the first rack.
It was painted by the Lancashire based artist was Peter Layzell who was Portrait Artist in Residence at The Atkinson in 2008 and this picture is from the same year. In a couple of interviews one with Lancashire Life and one with Jackdaw Magazine-a publication described as taking a satirical, fun poking review of the Arts world- Layzell has discussed his time in Southport. He commuted daily from Lancaster and when asked if the daily time spent on public transport was wasted he replied: 'Not a bit of it! “I was so taken with the exercise of capturing a likeness in a very short time that I made indelible sketches with a pen, of no less than four hundred fellow train passengers, many of whom were completely unaware that their image had been recorded.'