Though best known for his watercolours of English rural scenes, Joseph Kirkpatrick was more wide-ranging than his reputation suggests. He painted seductive images of Jamaica and Morocco, and also produced oils and various kinds of print.
Joseph Kirkpatrick was born in West Derby, Liverpool, Lancashire, and baptised there on 5 January 1873. He was the son of Andrew Edward Kirkpatrick, a collector for the Friendly Society, and his wife, Frances Elizabeth (née Wain). First studying locally under John Finnie at Liverpool School of Art, he went on to the Académie Julian, in Paris, where his teachers were William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Gabriel Ferrier. While at Julian’s, he won first prize for drawing from the life (1893) and first prize for portraiture from life (1894).
On returning to Liverpool, Kirkpatrick took a studio at the central address of Castle Street, and established himself in the artistic life of the city.
He exhibited watercolours and etchings, most regularly at the Walker Art Gallery, and became a member of both Liverpool Artists’ Club and the Liverpool Academy of Arts, serving as honorary secretary of the latter between 1901 and 1903. During this period, he also began to exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts, in London, and at the Royal Cambrian Academy of Art, in Conway. His early works display the influence of the Pre-Raphaelites.
In 1903, Kirkpatrick went to Jamaica at the invitation of Alfred Jones, director of the Liverpool firm of Elder, Dempster and Company. Two years earlier, Jones had ‘inaugurated a new steamship service to Jamaica, bought up hotels, and began to revive the flagging West Indian trade’ (Robert A Hill (editor), The Marcus Garvey and UNIA Papers, University of California Press, 1986, vol v, page 683, footnote 3). He then enlisted the services of photographers, lantern lecturers and artists, including Kirkpatrick, to help promote the island. The watercolours that Kirkpatrick produced as a result were exhibited in London, and elsewhere in England, before being disposed of by auction in Kingston.
In the same year, Kirkpatrick exhibited paintings of the Moroccan port of Tangiers, which he may also have visited at the request of Elder, Dempster and Company.
By 1905, Kirkpatrick had moved south to Hampshire, and settled at Curdridge, near Southampton. Emulating such painters as Birket Foster, he increasingly specialised in downland landscapes, and other rustic scenes. From about 1915, he divided his time between London and Sussex, with addresses at 38 Redcliffe Square, South Kensington, and near Arundel.