Newlyn is a small fishing port lying about a mile and a half from 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 19th century. In the 1880s, numerous British painters began to arrive in Newlyn, many of whom had trained in Paris or Antwerp. Most had also spent time painting in Brittany; in Newlyn they found a similar source of inspiration, but closer to home and with a direct rail link to London.
Like Brittany, Newlyn offered scenes and lives scarcely touched by the industrial revolution, with plentiful, cheap accommodation and willing models. Soon, a host of artists settled, forming the colony known as the 'Newlyn School'.
The first resident artist was Walter Langley, who moved to Newlyn in 1882. In 1884, Stanhope Forbes arrived, writing to his mother that "Newlyn is a sort of English Concarneau and is the haunt of many artists".
By September 1884, there were at least twenty-seven resident artists, including Frank Wright Bourdillon, Frank Bramley, Percy Craft, Elizabeth Forbes, Norman Garstin, Thomas Cooper Gotch, Frederick Hall, Edwin Harris, Harold Harvey, Albert Chevallier Tayler, Ralph Todd and Henry Scott Tuke. Many more artists visited the village during this period, both for long and short periods, while others who were recognised as part of the 'Newlyn School' based themselves in St Ives, Lelant or Falmouth.
Initially, the artists were united by a desire to paint 'en plein air', depicting the lives of the villagers in a rural naturalist style. As the colony declined and the common ethos evaporated, Stanhope and Elizabeth Forbes founded their School of Painting, bringing a new generation of artists to Newlyn, including Dod and Ernest Procter and Frank Gascoigne Heath.
This re-energising of the colony attracted further artists, such as Samuel John 'Lamorna' Birch, Alfred Munnings, 'Seal' Weatherby and Harold and Laura Knight, many of whom later settled in Lamorna, forming the Lamorna group, often referred to as the later Newlyn School.
Although the 'Newlyn School', as a unified artistic movement, ceased to exist in the early 20th century, the area remains a vibrant art colony to this day, and many hundreds of artists have made the area their home at some point. For a searchable database of artists associated with this area, whether or not they were part of the Newlyn School, please visit the Cornwall Artists Index website (created by West Cornwall Art Archive).
We want to hear about your paintings! If you have a Newlyn School painting or other Cornish work from the period 1880 to 1940, we would love to know about it. All information supplied is treated with the utmost confidentiality and never shared with any third party without express permission, but it is of great help to our Curators to know about privately-held paintings. If you would be willing to share information about a painting you own, please fill in our Paintings Database Form and send it, together with a snapshot of the painting, to Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Morrab Road, Penzance TR18 4HE. We look forward to hearing for you.