Newlyn is a small fishing port near Penzance, on the south coast of Cornwall’s Penwith peninsula. The area’s spectacular scenery, with its granite cliffs and sparkling seas, has attracted visiting artists since the early nineteenth century.

In 1949, it also became home to Penlee House Gallery & Museum. Here, Louise Connell, its Director, chooses ten favourite paintings from the Newlyn School collection.


Study of a Fisherwoman

Study of a Fisherwoman 1884

Stanhope Alexander Forbes (1857–1947)

Penlee House Gallery & Museum

Dublin-born Stanhope Forbes settled in Newlyn in 1884. 

It was the perfect place for Forbes and the growing community of artists to practise the ‘plein air’ (outdoors) style they’d studied in Paris and Brittany. 

It had a solid harbour with small fishing boats, greyish-silver light, and plenty of people willing to be artists' subjects.


Zandvoort Fishergirl

Zandvoort Fishergirl 1884

Elizabeth Adela Forbes (1859–1912)

Penlee House Gallery & Museum

Canadian artist Elizabeth Armstrong married Forbes in 1889. She was a superb artist in her own right, as this portrait of a Dutch girl shows. 

Like many Newlyn School artists, she trained at art schools in Europe before settling in Cornwall.

The couple established the Forbes School of Painting and Drawing in 1899 which ran until 1940. 

The artists who trained there included Dod Procter and Eleanor and Robert Hughes.


The Sunny South

The Sunny South 1885

Walter Langley (1852–1922)

Penlee House Gallery & Museum

Walter Langley was born in Birmingham and originally trained as a printer. In 1882 he became one of the first artists to settle in the port.

He moved to Cornwall permanently when he was offered £500 for a year’s work through his agent, which allowed him to rent a house in Newlyn and pursue his painting career in earnest.

Although he is best known for his watercolours, depicting scenes of high drama in the fishing village, this work shows he was equally at home with oils.


The Jubilee Hat

The Jubilee Hat 1887

Frank Wright Bourdillon (1851–1924)

Penlee House Gallery & Museum

Newlyn artists were painters of contemporary life. Family groups and interior scenes are typical of them during this period. 

They observed and recorded topical events, such as this family’s preparations for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887.

The view out of the window is of Mount’s Bay, home to St Michael’s Mount.


The Lesson

The Lesson 1889

Edwin Harris (1855–1906)

Penlee House Gallery & Museum

The model on the left is believed to be Kate Jeffries, who sat for many Newlyn artists. She also featured in the previous painting, The Jubilee Hat

The intimate interior setting here is typical of the school, with its window seat and single source of light.


In the Fields

In the Fields 1886

Frederick Hall (1860–1948)

Penlee House Gallery & Museum

This painting depicts a young woman tired out after a day working in the fields.

It shows the clear influence of the French social-realist painters of the period, such as Jules Bastien-Lepage and Jean-François Millet.

Hall used a square brush to ‘block in’ colour. This technique was adopted by many Newlyn School artists who worked in the French style.


Feeding Time

Feeding Time 1884

Albert Chevallier Tayler (1862–1925)

Penlee House Gallery & Museum

Tayler was a master of the square brush. The softened edges achieved with this technique give a feeling of atmosphere and light in this work.

Like most of the Newlyn artists, he also trained in Paris. In September 1884 he arrived in Newlyn, the same year that Stanhope Forbes joined the growing artists’ colony. 

Although Tayler was well respected by other artists, he unfortunately didn't have much success selling his work.


The Thread of Life Runs Smooth As Yet

The Thread of Life Runs Smooth As Yet

Frederick Millard (1857–1937)

Penlee House Gallery & Museum

The use of moralistic titles, designed to give extra meaning to everyday activities, was a common theme among Newlyn painters.

This work by ‘Fred’ Millard shows the concentration on the face of an old fisherwoman as she tries to thread a needle.


The Rain It Raineth Every Day

The Rain It Raineth Every Day 1889

Norman Garstin (1847–1926)

Penlee House Gallery & Museum

This work shows stormy weather on Penzance Promenade, looking down towards St Mary’s church and the centre of town. 

Apart from the period features, very little has changed to this day. 

Louise Connell, Director, Penlee House Gallery & Museum

Editor's note: This story first appeared on the BBC Arts website. The BBC is an Art UK project partner.

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