In my previous posts about St Ives, in western Cornwall, I mentioned a good many of its attractions:
I also mentioned Alfred Wallis, the most famous artist to have lived and worked there. Alfred was born in Devon in 1855 but moved with his parents to Penzance at quite an early age. He became a deep sea fisherman and sailed on trawlers as far away as Newfoundland. When he was 20 he married Susan Ward who was then 41 years of age. Alfred still worked as a fisherman, but on land he was also a labourer and a dealer in marine supplies. Around this time, the family all moved to St Ives. As he grew older, Alfred worked for a local antique seller and it was perhaps this which pointed him towards painting. After his wife died in 1922, he began to paint, making use of the limited number of colours available in chandlers’ shops to paint ships and boats. Here he is as an old man and a young artist:
Instead of canvas, Alfred made use of scraps of cardboard which had been used as packaging.
Here are some of his paintings. This is called “Windjammer and Cutter”:
This is called “Four luggers leaving a harbour”:
This one is “Wreck of the Alba”. It is possible to recognise Godrevy Island, the beach at Porthmeor, and The Island with the Coast Guard Lookout:
“The Hold House Port Meor Island” also has recognisable features of St Ives such as Porthmeor Beach, The Island with St Nicholas Chapel on the top as well as Wallis’ own house:
Here is the map of these two paintings. The white area at the top is called “The Island”:
Here is Alfred’s rather unusual grave in Porthmeor Cemetery which overlooks the sea to the west of the word “(w)ater” on the map:
Here is the top, created in ceramic tiles by Bernard Leach:
One of the paintings above, and Wallis’ grave, both carry illustrations of a lighthouse. It is on Godrevy Island, a view which I have birdwatched for countless hundreds of hours over the years:
To study Wallis, your first port of call should be the Great Mother of Us All After that, many of his paintings can be viewed at the Tate St Ives, which again, has a beautiful view over the Atlantic Ocean.
I have used some of these paintings at the Tate St Ives to illustrate this little introduction. If you are going to Cornwall this summer, make sure that you go there and check out this wonderful old man’s paintings. It’s certainly time better spent than wandering around the interminable surf shops and fast food eateries that are being allowed to spoil one of Britain’s most beautiful places.