Frank Henry Algernon Mason is today best known for his maritime, shipping, coastal and harbour paintings and as the creator of vibrant travel and railway posters.
TWO HISTORICAL BIOGRAPHICAL MYTHS
"He was born in 1876"
Mason was actually born on the 1st October 1875. His parents were married in Seaton Carew near Hartlepool on 27th March 1875 and seven months later the young Frank was born. So it became prudent to promote his year of birth as 1876.
"He studied at the Albert Strange School of Art, Scarborough"
There is no evidence to confirm he attended this school although previous artist dictionaries continually include it. In fact the opposite is true. Two contemporary writers have recorded Mason was a self taught painter and "never had the smallest artistic training... his only teacher was his natural instinct". Furthermore a review in 1911 wrote of Mason "his artistic training was nil".
What is certain is that as a very young boy he lived with his grandfather who was a lighthouse keeper under the Tees Conservatory. The young Mason grew up surrounded by all things nautical and was enlisted as a cadet on HMS Conway in 1888, a Naval training ship moored at Birkenhead. On leaving HMS Conway, Frank spent some time at sea before training as a marine engineer and working at Hartlepool, Leeds and Scarborough. He eventually settled in Scarborough with his parents about 1890.
There was a strong artistic community in Scarborough at that time centred on the harbour area where Mason watched marine artists such as Thomas Bush Hardy and Ernest Dade at work. By about 1895 Frank's work had advanced to the point where he received regular commissions from art dealers and chose to become a professional artist.
From an early age Mason was rarely without some sort of sailing craft for his personal use. His early enthusiasm for sailing was formalised when attaining membership of the Scarborough Sailing Club in the year of its formation, 1895, along with fellow Scarborough artists Albert Strange and Ernest Dade. The following year he became an elected member of the Humber Yawl Club, having been nominated by Albert Strange and seconded by George Holmes. In later years Mason attended other major yachting regattas around British coastal waters, particularly the Solent but later in the Clyde and produced a large number of finished works of these racing. Mason, a keen yachtsman all his life, gave yachting as one of his principal recreations in Who’s Who.
By the time of the interruption of the Great War he had regularly exhibited his work at the Royal Academy and the Royal Society of British Artists.
During World War One Frank Mason volunteered as a lieutenant in the RNVR in command of motor launches in the North Sea, Egypt and Malta. He was later recalled by the Navy to work on dazzle camouflage and then became an official War artist attending the signing of the Turkish Armistice.
He moved back to Scarborough but also rented a studio at Ebberston Hall, near Snainton in the Vale of Pickering. Here he produce much of his early poster artwork for the London and North Eastern railways, but when he gained an exclusive contract with them in 1927 he moved to London. He did also do poster work also for other railway companies and ocean liner companies, mainly between the wars.As an illustrator his magnum opus was a series of 53 paintings which illustrated the front covers of the maritime monthly magazine, "Blue Peter" between 1932 and 1936.
During World War Two he was again seconded to the Navy to work on dazzle camouflage.
His commercial art flourished after the WW2 through advertising commissions from British Ropes Ltd and F.T. Everard & Sons painting their merchant fleet
He always supported the sea faring community and through the 1950’s donated a trawler painting to the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen to raise funds through publishing their Christmas cards.
In 1961 he was belatedly elected a member of the Royal Society of Marine Artists and continued to paint until shortly before being admitted to the Dreadnought Hospital for Seamen at Greenwich where he died of a heart attack on 24 February 1965.