These days paintings from the Newlyn School fetch large sums of money at auction, but there are still many in the hands of local families. Many of these were originally used as currency, payment for board and lodging. This post Impressionist school of painting was in its heyday in the years prior to the First World War, although many of the well-known artists continued painting until much later in the twentieth century.
The first of the painters to settle in the town was one of the greatest. Walter Langley arrived from Birmingham in 1882. He had already established something of a reputation whilst working in a lithographic studio. Langley came from a working class background, unlike many of the artists who followed him to Newlyn. His paintings are powerful depictions of the hardships suffered by the local population and particularly by the seafaring community. Although he used other mediums at times, Langley achieved marvellous effects with his unusual use of watercolours.
Whereas Langley tended to depict the dark side of life, his friend, Edwin Harris, who moved to Newlyn at around the same time, illustrated the lighter moments enjoyed by the local community. These two founders of the artists’ colony were soon followed by some of the more famous members of the school.
Stanhope Forbes arrived in Penzance in 1884 and soon moved to Newlyn. He was already an established artist who preferred to work out of doors. His first Newlyn painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy to the acclaim of the public. This triumph attracted other artists to the area. Forbes later married Elizabeth Armstrong, another accomplished artist who specialised in painting scenes of local children.
Another artist who arrived about the same time as Forbes was Frank Bramley. He tended to use similar subject matter to Langley, highlighting the tragic side of life in the fishing community but his preferred medium was oil. As in the case of Forbes, Bramley had an immediate success with his Newlyn paintings.
Norman Garstin was another early member of the Newlyn School and his painting The Rain it Raineth Every Day is one of the proud possessions of Penlee House Museum and Gallery in Penzance. The promenade has not changed too much since the painting was executed but perhaps the weather has been slightly maligned! Garstin was originally from Ireland and, like many of the Newlyn School, had studied and worked in France before moving to Cornwall.
Ralph Todd was another artist who studied on the continent before moving to Newlyn in 1883. By the early 1890s he had moved to St. Keverne but whilst in Newlyn he shared a studio with Fred Millard. Millard (possibly the son of a diamond merchant) came from Islington in London, and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1885, 1887, and 1888.
Henry Scott Tuke studied in Florence, having won a Slade scholarship in 1877. He also studied in Paris from 1881 to 1883. There he began to paint en plein-air. He settled in Cornwall, first at Newlyn, where he became a founder-member of the Newlyn School until moving to Falmouth in 1885. Tuke’s paintings of the Cornish fishing community reflect his knowledge of the sea. His later paintings of naked boys on sunlit beaches caused moral concerns among some of his contemporaries.
Born in Northamptonshire, Thomas Gotch came from a distinguished non-conformist family. He entered the Slade in 1879 and became a close friend of Scott Tuke. Fred Hall was born in Yorkshire and first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1883. He made a number of paintings in Newlyn, but by 1897 had moved away for good. Chevallier Taylor painted in Newlyn between 1884 and 1895. Born in Essex he studied at the Slade and then in Paris for two years, coming to Newlyn in 1884.
Harold Knight was born in Nottingham, where he studied at the Nottingham School of Art. It was there that he met his future wife, Laura Johnson, whom he married in 1903. After spending some time in Paris and Yorkshire, the Knights moved to Newlyn in 1907. The couple remained in Cornwall until 1918. Harold knight is considered to be one of the minor members of the school whereas his wife is a far more prominent artist.
Laura Johnson was brought up in Nottingham by her mother who taught art and encouraged her talent. Apparently, the move to Cornwall brought the young Laura and her husband into contact with a lively group of young artists with whom they shared an active social life. Dame Laura Knight, as she was to become, was the foremost female artist of her generation. Her tradition of realism enabled her work to be appreciated by both critics and the public throughout her life. The twelve years spent working at Newlyn were very happy and productive years for both Laura and her husband.
Dod Procter, born Doris Shaw was only fifteen when her mother brought her and her brother to study at the art school of Stanhope and Elizabeth Forbes in Newlyn. It was there that she met her future husband, Ernest Procter, whom she married in 1912. Dod specialised in painting mainly single female figures, nude or in soft drapes. One of these paintings was bought by the Daily Mail for the Tate Gallery, making Dod Procter a household name.
Ernest Procter was born in Northumberland and came to Newlyn in 1907. After three years at the Forbes’ School of Painting, he went to Paris where he was joined by Dod. The couple eventually returned to Newlyn to open their own art school.
When the Newlyn Art Gallery opened in 1895, it was intended to provide a more suitable place in which the artists could display their work before submitting it to the Royal Academy in London. Prior to this there was a show day each March when the artists exhibited in their individual studios.