15 June - 7 Sept
Monday to Saturday (closed Sundays)
10.30 am - 4.30 pm
(last admission 4.00pm)
Admission £4.50 adults,
under 18s FREE
ADMISSION FREE ON SATURDAYS
From Easter Saturday
to 30 September:
10.00am - 5.00pm
(last admission 4.30pm)
WINNER Cornwall Tourism Awards GOLD
South West Tourism Excellence Awards GOLD
This summer’s exhibition at Penlee House Gallery and Museum in Penzance offers not just a feast for the eyes, but also a chance to indulge the imagination, as it presents a sumptuous array of literary-inspired works by Newlyn artists.
Although the Newlyn School are best known for their realistic depictions of the local community, artists such as Walter Langley and Norman Garstin often chose poetic titles to give added poignancy to their work. Some of the sources were well-known tracts, such as Charles Kingsley’s ‘The Three Fishers’ which gives the title to Langley’s heart-rending ‘But men must work and women must weep’, lent to the exhibition by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, or the Shakespearean quotation (which is in both ‘King Lear’ and ‘Twelfth Night’) Garstin famously chose for his iconic ‘The Rain it Raineth Every Day’.
As the twentieth century dawned, several of the artists moved away from realism, not only taking titles but their entire subjects from literature. Inspired by sources such as Robert Browning, John Keats and Robert Herrick, artists including Elizabeth Forbes, Thomas Cooper Gotch, Henry Meynell Rheam and William Wainwright produced opulent illustrative paintings in Mediaevalist style.
Not content with just illustrating text, Elizabeth Forbes even wrote her own book ‘King Arthur’s Wood’, published in 1904 as one of the vanguard of collectors’ edition illustrated children’s books, pre-empting Arthur Rackham. Many of the privately owned original illustrations are included in the exhibition, so this is a rare chance to see them in the public domain, alongside copies of the book itself.
The costume and drama spilled from painting to life, with the artists holding pageants and performances, and dressing their models in costume without the pretext of a quotation to match. Perhaps the most dramatic evocation of this is Thomas Cooper Gotch’s magnificent ‘Alleluia’, lent to the exhibition from Tate, London - a huge and spectacular painting depicting recognised local models.
With a number of works not seen at Penlee House before - and indeed some rarely if ever seen in public - alongside much-loved familiar favourites, ‘Poems, Plays and Fairytales’ offers a new view of art from Newlyn and promises to be a treat for all the family: don’t miss it!
The exhibition has been curated in partnership with freelance curator Catherine Wallace. It opens on Saturday 15 June and runs to Saturday 7 September, open Monday to Friday, 10.00 until 5.00.
See our Exhibitions page for a list of forthcoming exhibitions
Click here for information about some of our previous exhibitions, including accompanying videos.