Lakeside Arts
Part of University of Nottingham
Lakeside Arts

Photograph of a boy in gallery. Boy wears school uniform and observes Lowry paintings. He is looking at painting of a face.


Learning about art and its history doesn't just have to be for grown-ups. Enjoy learning about Maurice Cockrill's painting, Little Fires. Discover more about the scene he painted and then have a go at creating your own artwork inspired by Cockrill's approach to landscape painting. Suitable for ages 8+.

Top photo: School visit to the Djanogly Gallery’s Lowry exhibition, 2011.


By Maurice Cockrill (1936-2013)
Gouache on paper
58 x 79cm

This painting is called Little Fires and on the left-hand side of the painting’s composition it looks as though little flames are flickering across what appears to be a field.

Full image of Maurice Cockrill's painting

Click on the picture to open up a full view that you can zoom in. 

Take a closer look: Can you see the flames in the painting?

In the past, fields were set alight as a farming practice called ‘stubble burning’ and it was a familiar sight to see in the countryside after the harvest season. This farming practice was stopped after 1993. This might be what the artist, Cockrill is hinting at here.

Can you also see flame-like forms radiating from the yellow and white circular shape in roughly the middle of the painting?

Take a closer look: What does this shape look like to you?

We can’t help but look at this and see the sun, even if it is divided into a white half and a yellow half. You may be able to recognise other things too! Just underneath the circular shape is the twisting strands of the double helix symbol (structure of a DNA molecule). Then, there are some less obvious shapes. In the top right-hand corner of the painting, there appears to be a bird. Below this, small shapes appear that look similar to little seeds or what might be small flames.

This painting was completed when Maurice Cockrill was coming to the end of his ‘landscape’ phase. After his landscape paintings, Maurice Cockrill would begin to paint more abstract art.  

Maurice Cockrill was often inspired by nature, including the sky, earth, growth and grain. In this painting, there are four elements – earth, air and fire and perhaps water too. Of these, fire was always important for Cockrill.

In Little Fires, Cockrill uses colours that are much darker whereas some of his other paintings use much brighter primary colours.

Take a closer look: What colours do you see? Can you compare these to some of Cockrill’s other works here?

To create this kind of painting, Cockrill would have worked quickly to outline the main elements using direct and spontaneous brushstrokes. Detailed brushwork is worked-in with motifs and forms floating across the surface or partially hidden beneath.


Now it's your turn to try creating your own landscape inspired by Maurice Cockrill. Use the guide below to help you think like an abstract painter.