Surrealist Anthony Earnshaw's work returned to the rooms it was once imagined as a struggling young artist

As a struggling artist in the late 1960s, Anthony Earnshaw had handcrafted works in the dining room of a dark and dingy flat which would go on to earn him significant surrealist acclaim.

Gail Earnshaw in the space where her late husband Anthony Earnshaw created The Seven Secret Alphabet No 6, pictured with Tony Salaris of Deliziosa who is displaying the painting in his Italian restaurant.
Gail Earnshaw in the space where her late husband Anthony Earnshaw created The Seven Secret Alphabet No 6, pictured with Tony Salaris of Deliziosa who is displaying the painting in his Italian restaurant.

Now, some decades after his death, his widow has returned his work to the place where it was created, to hang above the fireplace in a now flourishing Italian restaurant.

To see his ideas returned to their birthplace, said Gail Earnshaw, feels a fitting tribute.

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“I often watched him, sitting and drawing in that room,” said Mrs Earnshaw, now aged 70, who still lives in the Chapel Allerton district of Leeds where the couple had first made their home.

Anthony Earnshaw in Chapel Allerton in 1988. Photo by Michael Woods.

“I was brought to tears when I saw the fabulous job of converting it into a restaurant.

“This is really something special, to see his work returned to where it was invented in 1971. It’s heartwarming, like a jigsaw piece puzzle that has come together.

“It all fits, after all these years, and long after he’s gone. The circle is now complete.”

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Gail Earnshaw from Chapel Allerton in Leeds with a book about her late husband Anthony Earnshaw 'The Imp of Surrealism' in the flat he did some of his paintings Writer: Byline: Gary Longbottom

Ilkley-born artist and writer Anthony Earnshaw, who died in 2001 at the age of 76, was described as an “anarchist of distinction” with a lively individualism and charismatic style.

As his success grew, he published novels which became cult classics, with works at galleries such as The Tate, Cartwright Hall, and Leeds City Art Gallery.

“He was a very modest, quiet man, who left school at 14 to work as a lathe turner and engineer for 26 years,” said Mrs Earnshaw. “But he was this other man, who talked about art and spent his days in libraries. He was self taught, he believed in what he did and people saw that in him.

“I promised him, before he died, that there would be a book about him and a piece in The Tate, and there is. His career took off.

“His dream was to have a piece in Leeds City Art Galleries, and eventually they bought three or four. People fell in love with his work, and with him. He was an extraordinary man.”

Painstaking conversion

It was on the Number 2 bus from Chapel Allerton library that the couple had met in 1967, living together in Flat 2, 1 Regent Street until the mid 1980s.

This 17th century building, believed to be one of the area’s oldest, has had a shop at its front for generations, with photographs of Queen Mary passing by at the end of the First World War.

The property was taken on by Deliziosa founder Tony Salaris in 2017, who set about a painstaking conversion to create the now popular Italian restaurant and deli where the work hangs.

“Chapel Allerton was so different in the late 1960s,” recalls Mrs Earnshaw, who has since remarried to another artist named Stephen Weir. “It was a place where creative people swarmed.

“The flat was, for me, such an artist’s dream. For everybody else it was cold, but it was very cheap rent and that was the main thing.

“I’ve always had a very soft spot in my heart for Regent Street. Now, to sit in the restaurant and see his work, just moves me. If he was still alive, he would absolutely love what they have done. He would love that his art is above our old bedroom fireplace.”

Surrealist artist

Anthony Earnshaw became interested in surrealism by his late 20s, and by the late 1960s he was hosting exhibitions which drew him to the attention of art galleries and publishers nationally, with some of his pieces being lithographic prints called Seven Secret Alphabets.

It is one of these pieces, No.6, that has been returned to the couple’s old flat, now home to a recently converted and popular Italian restaurant and deli called Deliziosa.

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