Born in Sheffield in 1938, Joe Scarborough is an artist most famous for bringing to life the everyday scenes of South Yorkshire, painting humorous depictions of Sheffield life. Originally hailing from Pitsmoor, an area to the North of Sheffield City Centre, Joe still lives in his hometown to this day on his much loved narrowboat.
Joe went to Marlcliffe School and upon finishing his education at age 16 he got his first job in a factory that produced tinned peas. He went on to become a coal laborer and then a face worker at Thorpe Hesley Colliery, and after nearly six years down the pit Joe began to paint. It was the great contrast of darkness below ground, and the light and colour of the world above that inspired Joe to put paint to canvas. His first painting sold for a ‘fiver’ but he knew he couldn’t work the mines and paint at the same time. Joe left the pit and took various laborer jobs giving him the freedom to paint early in the morning mornings and at night. He says it’s the best thing he ever did.
His big break came when Cyril Caplin appeared in his life. Acting as his ‘fairy godmother’, Cyril made it possible for Joe to paint full time by making him an offer - £35 a week for two years. Joe accepted and turned out between 70 - 80 paintings in those two years. It was during this time that Scarborough developed his style, moving from painting clipper ships to his paintings that we recognise today. Joe’s reputation grew and in 1973 he held his first one man show which led to exhibitions around the world. In 2008 he was commemorated as one of the Sheffield Legends with a star on the ‘walk of fame’ outside Sheffield Town Hall.
Today Joe Scarborough paintings adorn the walls of many Sheffield homes, as well as private and public buildings all over the world. Many of Joe’s paintings can be found in major collections, including some in public art collections at Sheffield Museums and Sheffield Hallam University. His largest work “Sheffield Through the Ages” resides at Weston Park Museum in Sheffield. Joe continues to paint to this day.