Thursday, April 24, 2008

Stanhope Forbes


Stanhope Alexander Forbes was an Irish painter who was considered to be the leader of the Newlyn School of painters. This was more of a loose artists’ colony than a concerted school of painting style.

Forbes studied under John Sparkes, and then enrolled in the Royal Academy School, where he briefly studied with Frederick Lord Leighton and Alma Tadema.

He continued his studies in France, where he came into contact with some of the French painters who were beginning to paint “en plein air”. He would eventually devote himself to the demanding practice of plein air figure painting, composing large scale canvasses, often with multiple models, that sometimes took months to complete.

He moved back across the channel and, looking for a place that afforded good light, abundant scenery and village life to paint, settled in Newlyn, which was convenient to Penzance, Cornwall. The new railway station there allowed easy travel to London and its galleries.

Other artists were attracted to the area for the same reasons, similar to the way plein air artists of the time were in France attracted to Barbizon, near Paris, in the US to New Hope, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia and various places in California that were also accessible by rail.

In Newlyn, Forbes painted outdoor scenes of working fishermen and village life, and when the weather was inclement, painted indoor scenes. He usually had at least two paintings in progress at any time, one outdoors and one indoors.

Forbes is often credited as the father of the Newlyn school, and was the most renowned of the painters working there at the time. His style never became “impressionistic” but his brushwork loosened as time went on, and he was devoted to the qualities inherent in plein air painting, saying it afforded “…that quality of freshness, most difficult of attainment by any other means and which one is apt to lose when the work is brought into the studio for completion”.

8 thoughts on “Stanhope Forbes

  1. Katherine

    Charley – I did some consultancy work down in Penzance back in the 90s and I have to tell you that the use of the word ‘easy’ in relation to the train journey between Penzance and London is relative! I ended up driving to and from London – even though it was a very long journey – because of the unreliability of the timings! I suspect the advantage then was that it would have been faster than the coach even with the vagaries of whether or not the winds are too high, the sea is too high etc which tend to affect the trains.

    That said, I did also pay a visit to the museum in Penzance and saw Stanhope Forbes’s work which is very striking. I also enjoyed work by other members of the Newlyn group plus visited Newlyn and some of the other places associated with the Newlyn Group. Lamorna was especially memorable. I think that fact that they are very nearly surrounded by sea at that point makes the light absolutely fantastic.

    However the rain is horizontal in winter!

  2. Charley Parker Post author

    Thanks, Katherine. It’s always great to have first-hand observations of these things. It may have been sufficient that London could be reached without days and days of travel. Nice to have another artist’s report on the quality of the light in the area, as I find the differences in light in differnt geographic areas fascinating.

    Speaking of fascinating, other readers should check out katherine Tyrell’s blog, Making a Mark, along with her cornucopia of other blogs, websites and art resources.

    These are long overdue as the subject of a lines and colors post. I’ve only been put off, I think, by the desire to get a handle on the entire range of her multitude of online offerings in addition to the range of her own work.

  3. oakling

    hermosura is right. what a great word. charley, do you ever fantasize (or even just think) about getting your blog translated into other languages so that even more people can read it?

  4. Joan Darling

    I love this picture and have a poster of the print,bought in Penzance years ago, which is now faded.Any idea where I can get another ?

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