AN exhibition is underway of stunning mountain paintings, some of which have never been seen before.

The paintings are by Julian Cooper, Britain’s foremost living mountain painter, and are on show at the Heaton Cooper Studio archive gallery in Grasmere until May 10.

The paintings on show are from Tibet, Peru and the Swiss Alps.

Michael Richardson, of London’s Art Space Gallery where some of the paintings have been exhibited in the past, explained that because climbing on the sacred mountain of Kailas in Tibet is forbidden, Cooper followed the centuries-old route of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain pilgrims.

“Photographing and above all looking and scrutinising the geology for hours on end, he started a process of engagement with the mountain, and its ethos, that continued back in his studio where the imaginative weight of the subject revealed itself on large semi-abstract canvases,” said Michael.

“Shunning a simple reliance on reproducing the appearance of things, Cooper’s expeditions and working method are his way of probing away at the deeper metaphorical significance of mountains. Cooper has reclaimed a landscape tradition thought by many to be doomed in an unmistakably contemporary way.”

The exhibition, covering 25 years, is certain to excite interest among those who love mountains and love art. These are some of Cooper’s works that have not been shown before in Cumbria, and they are all the result of Cooper’s own adventures as a painter of mountain landscapes.

The collection includes paintings done during a two-month trip to the Peruvian Andes in 1995, where Cooper worked on a large scale direct from the subject on site, along with the two remaining paintings in his possession from the Tibetan Kailas series.

These were done 15 years later when, in 2006, he travelled across to the far west of Tibet and walked all around the sacred mountain of Kailas, painting each aspect of the mountain on site but on a smaller scale, and producing several large paintings on his return.

There will also be Alpine paintings originated when Cooper and his wife Linda spent Christmas week in 1990 in Zermatt, and he drew and photographed the mountains from high up above the valley, reached by cable car.

The painting Above Zermatt was one of several done soon afterwards in 1990, but the four other Alpine paintings in the exhibition were produced 23 years later in 2013 using the original sketchbook drawings, for the 150th anniversary edition of the Alpine Journal commissioned by its then editor Stephen Goodwin.

On one occasion, working from a base camp in the Andean watershed, he carried 40 tubes of paint, a 7x6ft canvas and its alloy frame another 1,000ft higher to his working site on a moraine edge. For five days he fought against the altitude to make a painting while stones fell, glacial dust was blown up from the cliff below, and cracks started appearing in the ground behind and in front of him. “Slicing off like salami, the earth eroded right up to my canvas,” he recalls. He decided it was too dangerous to stay.

The exhibition will also feature photos, drawings and text alongside other material related to these trips to the mountains.