Peter Anson was an artist and author who devoted his life to his interests in the sea, fishing, and the Church. Many of his paintings record life and events around the fishing ports of North East Scotland. His work is a unique historical record as well as an artistic one, which had an attractive and distinctive style based on his original architectural training.
A catalogue of Peter Anson’s paintings in the Moray Council’s collection is available to borrow in CD format through Moray’s Libraries, and the Falconer Museum.
Anson was born at Southsea, Portsmouth on 22 August 1889 into a seafaring family. Despite attending exclusive private schools and having private tutors, his schooldays were not marked by academic success. However, his talent for drawing and painting was apparent at an early age.
Between 1908 and 1910 he attended the Architectural School at Westminster but abandoned his studies to join the Anglican Benedictine Order of monks. Anson came to Scotland in 1919 for health reasons and lived for two years at the Abbey of Fort Augustus. He was always interested in ships and seafarers and in 1921 was a co-founder and Secretary of the ‘Apostleship of the Sea’, a group established to provide support for Catholic seafarers. He later left this group and gave up monastic life to become a full time writer and artist. He exhibited his paintings and in 1927 the first of his many books, which varied between ecclesiastical and nautical subjects, was published. His church drawings in particular show an attention to detail learned from his architectural studies.
For many years Anson travelled widely throughout Europe and Britain but in 1936 he moved back to the Moray Firth, living first in Portsoy and then Macduff where he lived on Low Shore until 1958. He spent these years sketching and writing about the fishing industry and seafarers’ lives.
Anson eventually settled in Ferryden in a house that once belonged to his mother’s family. In 1966 in recognition of his literary work, Pope Paul VI created him a ‘Knight of St. Gregory the Great’. Aged 80, Peter Anson was invited to return to the Cistercian community on Caldey as a ‘Choir Oblate’. He stayed until 1975 when he returned to Scotland to live in Santa Maria Abbey at Nunraw, East Lothian until his death just a few months later.