The Newlyn School

There are a considerable number of well-known painters who are said to have joined the artists’ colony. I am talking today about the artists who worked there for several consecutive years before the place was “known”, that is to say, before it was flooded with painters and speculative building.
After that time, the “swells” came down for holidays, calling themselves artists, taking all the available lodgings, and almost crowding out the working artists. As a result, the character of the little fishing port was changed for ever.
It was two artists from Birmingham that first discovered Newlyn. Why Newlyn? The longing for clean air and light saw the flowering of painting “en plein air” movement in England. In the early 1880s, it was becoming fashionable to paint in this manner (but also daring and rebellious), where the object was to paint natural colours and tones directly from life, with the inherent problems of the changing light through the days and seasons, and with the practicalities of carrying easels, canvases and equipment to the chosen subject.
As Norman Garstin said, “your work could not be any good unless you caught a cold doing it”.

These are artists of the Newlyn School in order of their arrival there.

Walter Langley, 1852-1922


The artist in his studio

Son of a Birmingham tailor, he arrived in Newlyn in 1881 after training at South Kensington where he studied design. He recorded life in the fishing community, painting, unusually, mainly in watercolour.  He was politically left wing and was noted for his socialist/realist portrayals of working-class figures, mainly fishermen and their families.
In 1878 he was invited to hang a self-portrait in The Uffizi to hang alongside Raphael, Rubens and Rembrandt in their collection of great artists.


Walter Langley, Carrying the Catch


Walter Langley, The Fisherman, 1891


Walter Langley, The Greeting, 1904


Walter Langley, A Cornish Village Maiden, 1883


Walter Langley, Among the Missing, 1883


Walter Langley, Between the Tides, 1901


Walter Langley, Touch of a Vanished Hand, 1888


Walter Langley, Waiting for the Boats, 1885

Edwin Harris, 1855-1906


Stanhope Forbes, Portrait of Edwin Harris, 1890

Born in Ladywood, Birmingham. Studied at BSA where Walter Langley was also a student.  They were to remain lifelong friends. After BSA attended Veriat’s Academy, Antwerp.
Arrived in Newlyn 1883, staying for twelve years. He interpreted his surroundings with a lighter touch than his friend Langley.
After leaving Newlyn he set up his own studio in Birmingham where he concentrated mainly on portraiture.


Edwin Harris, Apple Blossom


Edwin Harris, Under the Cornish Cliffs


Edwin Harris, Fisherman


Edwin Harris, An Old Fisherman


Edwin Harris, The Lesson


Edwin Harris, Mother & Daughter Reading a Book


Edwin Harris, A Pinch of Snuff


Edwin Harris, Gathering Sticks

Ralph Todd, 1856-1932
Moved to Newlyn in 1883. As a painter, he struggled. Some charming works, but others downright poor.


Ralph Todd, Primrose Day

Leghe Suthers, 1855-1929
Very little recorded of his life. Clearly, he spent a considerable amount of time in Newlyn, bu the dates are unknown.


Leghe Suthers, Newlyn, from Audit Lane, c1886

Fred Hall, 1860-1948
Studied at Lincoln School of Art before Veriat’s Academy in Antwerp. Arrived in Newlyn about 1883 to 85, and stayed until 1898.


Fred Hall, A Newlyn Cottage, c1910

Stanhope Alexander Forbes, RA, 1857-1947
Son of an English railway manager. Studied at Lambeth School of Art and the RA Schools.
Arrived in Newlyn in 1884, and is sometimes known as “the father of the Newlyn School”.
In 1889, he married his second wife Elizabeth Armstrong, also an artist (see below)
Died in Newlyn and buried nearby in Sancreed churchyard.


Stanhope Forbes, Mousehole, near Newlyn, 1919

Frank Bramley, 1857-1915
Like Fred Hall, he studied at Lincoln School of Art and Antwerp. He arrived in Newlyn in 1884.
In contrast to most of the Newlyn colony, he painted many interiors.
He was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy. He left Newlyn in 1895 and settled in Grasmere.


Frank Bramley, Eyes and no Eyes, or The Hopeless Dawn, 1887, Tate, London

Percy Robert Craft, 1856-1934
Arrived in Newlyn in 1885 and left in 1899.
Attended UCL and the Heatherley’s and the Slade.


Percy Craft, Tucking a School of Pilchards, 1897

Thomas Cooper Gotch, 1854-1931
The son of a shoemaker, he studied in London and Antwerp, and arrived in Newlyn in 1887. Painted naturalistic pastoral scenes before immersing himself in the Pre-Raphaelite school, and is best known for his work at that period.
Like Forbes, he was also buried in Sancreed churchyard.


Thomas Gotch, Portrait of Phyllis Gotch

Albert Chevallier Tayler, 1862-1925
Studied at Heatherley’s School of Art and the RA Schools.
He arrived in Newlyn in 1884 and stayed twelve years.


Albert Tayler, Feeding Time, 1888

Henry Edward Detmold, 1859-1921
Born into a merchant family of German origin. He came to Newlyn in 1885, after studying in Düsseldorf, Brussels, Munich and Paris? Specialised in Landscape and marine subjects.
He was buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.


Henry Detmold, An Old Fisherman

Frank Wright Bourdillon, 1851-1929
Born in India. Studied at the Slade and later in Paris. He arrived in Newlyn in 1887, and after five years he returned to India as a Christian missionary.
He used the “square brush technique”, where the flat of the brush is used to lay down squarish strokes of colour directly on to the canvas, unblended, in the form of a jigsaw puzzle.


Frank Bourdillon, The Jubilee Hat, 1887

Elizabeth Forbes (née Armstrong), 1859-1912.
A Canadian, she married Stanhope Forbes (above) in 1889. Having studied at South Kensington, now the Royal College of Art, she became an artist of considerable merit.


Elizabeth Forbes, School’s Out, 1889

William Banks Fortescue, 1850-1924
Also from Birmingham. He studied in Paris and Venice. Not very prolific, but. exhibited surprisingly frequently.


William Fortescue, Old Newlyn Harbour

Norman Garstin, 1847-1926
Studied in Antwerp and Paris.
Contributed greatly to the “Newlyn experience”.


Norman Garstin, In a Cottage

MH, Meeting No27, 16 October, 2018

Laura Knight, Newlyn

As we saw last time, in spite of the poverty, deprivation, terrible living conditions and the experience of pain and grief which so distressed Harold, Laura acknowledged that their life in Staithes was the time when she discovered herself as an artist

Remember that this all happened at the end of the Belle Epoque in society and the arts. Staithes was a long way from all this. They were now married and settled in their life together.

When they arrived in Newlyn in 1907, there was already an established colony of artists working there, among whom were Stanhope Forbes, Frank Bramley and Henry Scott Tuke. They were made welcome by Forbes, the acknowledged leader of the group.


Stanhope Forbes, A Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach, 1885, oil on canvas, City Museum & Art Gallery, Plymouth, UK

Writing to his mother in 1894, the painter Stanhope Forbes described Newlyn as ‘a sort of English Concarneau, and is the haunt of many artists’. Aware of the work of Bastien-Lepage and keen to explore plein air painting and rustic naturalism, Forbes had travelled to Brittany in 1891–2 in the company of his friend Henry La Tangue. They visited the artists’ colonies of Quimperlé and Concarneau where Jules Bastien-Lepage had settled in 1883. On his return to Britain, Forbes made his way to Newlyn and found there another colony dedicated to plein air realism. He decided to stay.


Frank Bramley, A Hopeless Dawn, 1888, oil on canvas, 123 168 cm, Tate Gallery, London, UK

The painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy,  with the following quotation from Ruskin:
‘Human effort and sorrow going on perpetually from age to age; waves rolling for ever and winds moaning, and faithful hearts wasting and sickening for ever, and brave lives dashed away about the rattling beach like weeds for ever; and still, at the helm of every lonely boat, through starless night and hopeless dawn, His hand, who spreads the fisher’s net over the dust of the Sidonian palaces, and gave unto the fisher’s hand the keys of the kingdom of heaven.’
The print after Raphael’s cartoon of ‘Christ giving the Keys to St Peter’ represented on the wall on the right has evidently been placed there deliberately to bear out the text. An open Bible lies in front of the missing fisherman’s mother who is comforting the young wife. A candle placed on the window-sill as a beacon has flickered out.
The Naturalist style was viciously criticised by Sickert, as a result of which all the Newlyn members left the New English Art Club


Henry Scott Tuke, Our Jack, portrait of Jack Rolling, c1886, oil on canvas, 51 x 32 cm, The Tuke Collection, Winchester, UK


Laura Knight, The Beach, 1909, oil on canvas, 127 x 152 cm, Tyne & Wear Museum, Newcastle, UK

The Beach brings together studies made at Staithes and at Newlyn. The children have, as Elizabeth Knowles comments in “Laura Knight in the Open Air”, been taken ‘out from a dim cottage interior into the brilliant light’ and the North Yorkshire coast re-located, like Laura, to southern climes. Laura said herself “in it I painted Staithes rather than Newlyn”


Harold Knight, In the Spring, 1908, oil on canvas, 132 x 158 cm, Tyne & Wear Museum, Newcastle, UK

Harold’s artistic achievements have never been fully explored or evaluated in depth, despite his being a highly accomplished painter, and a great portrait artist. Nor has Harold Knight been treated fairly in his own right, too often being represented as withdrawn and repressed, existing in the shadow of his flamboyant wife, a muted background against which Laura performed her vibrant excesses. Yet those who met and knew Harold considered him to be a quiet, sober, mild-mannered man. He was a good conversationalist, well informed, not just about art but about national and international affairs, displaying a lot of common sense, pragmatic and highly respected both as a man and as a painter. Laura herself was to say in later life that Harold gave her the stability and discipline she needed.


Laura Knight, Cheyne Walk, 1908, oil on canvas, 48 x 58 cm, Art Gallery, Leeds, UK

At the end of 1908 Laura was elected Associate of the Old Watercolour Society and in the new year travelled to London to receive her diploma, staying overnight with old Nottingham friends, Ernest Gillick, who had been a fellow student at the Art School, and his wife. Dedicated to the plein air philosophy, she could not resist prolonging her visit so that she might paint the recent snowfall in the street outside their house in Cheyne Walk. At once she went out to buy canvas, brushes, paints and galoshes and set up an easel on the pavement.She worked all that day and the next, numbed by the cold. The resulting picture was exhibited at the Academy in the summer of 1909.

Between 1909 and 1910, Laura worked on two large canvases

Laura Knight, Flying a Kite, 1910, oil on canvas, 150 x 180 cm, Iziko Museums, Cape Town, South Africa

Laura Knight, The Boys, 1910, oil on canvas, 152 x 183 cm, Art Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

Alfred Munnings arrived in Newlyn in 1909, and soon caused all sorts of trouble.

Harold Knight, Alfred Munnings Reading, c1911, oil on canvas, Private Collection

This painting was found in 2009, hidden on the back of Laura Knight’s Carnaval, 1915.

There has been a great deal of speculation as to why she should have hidden it. She liked Munnings for his extrovert behaviour, so much like her own. It is possible that she wanted to remove the canvas from Harold’s studio, since he had become irritated by the newcomer.

Shortly after Munnings had established himself in Newlyn, Florence Carter-Wood arrived. She was the sister of Joey, who lived there, although he was not an artist. Florence was beautiful and immediately sought after as a model.

Left, Harold Knight, Florence Carter-Wood, 1910, oil on canvas, Private Collection, and right, Laura Knight, A Girl Reading, probably Florence Carter-Wood, 1910, watercolour, 61 x 51 cm, Private Collection

Harold Knight, Afternoon Tea, c1910, oil on canvas, 193 x 152 cm, Private Collection

The scene is the sitting room in Sandy Cove, the house owned by another artist, Garnett Wolsey, who is present as the butler. Florence is on the left and Laura, dressed in blue, is in the centre.


Alfred Munnings, Morning Ride, oil on canvas, 51 x 62 cm, Private Collection

Munnings became infatuated with her, although they could not have been more different. He was the son of a Suffolk miller, she was from a wealthy brewing family. He behaved outrageously, she was naïve, conventional and innocent. They were married in 1912, and Florence attempted suicide on her wedding night, by taking poison. She was successful in her second attempt two years later.

In her autobiography, Laura simply states that “a much loved member of our community has been taken from us”, but Munnings does not refer to his first wife at any point in his own autobiography.

Briefly, back to Laura:

Laura Knight, Self Portrait, with model, 1913, oil on canvas, 152 x 128 cm, National Portrait Gallery, London, UK

The model is Ella Naper, an artist friend of Laura., and the painting is a bold statement about the ability of women to paint hitherto taboo subjects.

Two portraits of Dolly Henry, a model from London, whom Laura admired for her vitality, shrewdness, and a hint of violent temper. She was the girl friend of John Currie, a painter.

Left, Laura Knight, Rose and Gold, 1914, oil on canvas, 61 x51 cm, Private Collection, and right, Laura Knight, Marshmallows, 1914, oil on canvas, Private Collection

John Currie, Self Portrait, 1905, The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke on Trent, UK

Currie was a member of the Slade Art Group, and his friends included Mark Gertler and C R W Nevinson. He met Dolly when she was seventeen, fell in love and left his wife in 1911.

John Currie, The Supper, 1912-1914, The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke on Trent, UK

The detail shows John & Dolly kissing.

Left, John Currie, Head of a Girl, 1913, The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke on Trent, UK, and right, John Currie, The Witch, 1913, The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke on Trent, UK

On 8 October, 1914, Currie shot Dolly, and then killed himself.

Not everyone in Newlyn was surprised. Augustus John said “We all got sick of her. She was an attractive girl, or used to be when I new her first, but she seems to habve deteriorated into a deceitful little bitch”.

The Knights blamed themselves, since Harold, misjudging Dolly’s claims that Currie would harm her, had given him her address in London.

Calm returned.

Left, Laura Knight, Bathing, c1912, oil on canvas, 61 x 61 cm, Private Collection, and right, Laura Knight, The Cornish Coast,1917, oil on canvas, 65 x 76 cm, National Gallery of Wales, Cardiff, UK

Left,Laura Knight, The Green Sea, Lamorna, oil on canvas, 61 x 76 cm, Private Collection, and right Laura Knight, A Dark Pool, oil on canvas, 46 x 46 cm, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Laura Knight, Logan’s Rock, c1916, oil on canvas, 67 x 70 cm, Private Collection

The Knights moved to London in 1918, but often returned to Newlyn. Harold died there in 1961,

BT, Meeting No22, 7 August, 2018