What's On at Penlee

Click below to find out more about what's on now and coming up at Penlee House.

Previous exhibitions:

Model Citizens: Myths and Realities

14 June - 6 September 2014           

The artists that colonised Newlyn from the 1880s onwards, such as Elizabeth Armstrong, Frank Bramley, William Breakspeare, Stanhope Forbes, Edwin Harris, Walter Langley and Leghe Suthers, saw the local citizens as models of stability, courage, perseverance and faith. They painted working people engaged in everyday tasks, alongside moments of high drama, a version of contemporary life that was often carefully constructed and staged. With over seventy works on display, many borrowed from private and public collections, this exhibition shows how the spaces inhabited by these ‘model citizens’ are orderly, offering them as examples for the nation as a whole. Exhibition curated by Mary O’Neill. Throughout the ground floor galleries, including Newlyn School paintings: more paintings on show in Gallery 5.

 

Sponsored by WH Lane & Son

Penzance 400: A Celebration of the History of Penzance

29 March - 7 June 2014

The historic town of Penzance gained its Royal Charter of Incorporation in May 1614, and this exhibition celebrates the 400th anniversary by exploring the changing face of Penzance through its long and fascinating history.  Using paintings, photographs and artefacts, the show explores quirky facets of our fascinating municipality, from its earliest origins to significant events in living memory.  The exhibition also celebrates the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall, central to which was Penzance’s most famous son, Sir Humphry Davy, the internationally renowned scientist and inventor.  Curated with assistance from Dr Joanna Mattingly.

Edward Bouverie Hoyton 1900 - 1988: Master Etcher

18 January - 22 March 2014

This exhibition uncovers the work of Edward Bouverie Hoyton (1900 – 1988), one of the unsung heroes of Twentieth Century printmaking, and a master of his art. In his lifetime he produced and sold thousands of original prints, both at home and abroad, many of which documented the fishing towns and rugged coastal landscape of Cornwall where he lived from 1939 until his death at his home in Newlyn in 1988.

Hoyton was born in Lewisham, London in 1900 and went on to study printmaking at Goldsmiths College of Art alongside Graham Sutherland, Paul Drury, Eric Frazer, Robin Tanner and William Larkins. Collectively known as ‘The Goldsmiths Group’, these young artists helped to revive the art of the master etcher, the craft of original hand-made prints that had been largely overtaken by mechanical, mass-production printing methods. Their inspiration was the Nineteenth Century artist Samuel Palmer (1805 – 1881), whose etchings had created a sensation when they were exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1926.

While still at Goldsmiths, Bouverie Hoyton entered the prestigious Prix de Rome competition, winning the Rome Scholarship in Engraving at his third attempt in 1926, which led to a three-year period of study at the British School of Rome. Like many of his contemporaries, Bouverie Hoyton turned his hand to graphic design, producing commercial art for companies such as Fortnum and Mason, Standard Cars, Shell Oil, Daimler, Austin Reed and The Radio Times. The turning point in his career came in 1934 when he was appointed as a lecturer at Leeds College of Art, teaching printmaking and art history. It was at Leeds that he met his future second wife Inez, also an artist.

In 1941, the Hoytons moved to Penzance on Edward’s appointment as Principal at the Penzance School of Art on Morrab Road, a building it had occupied since 1870. Outside of teaching he also found time to renew his acquaintance with Barbara Hepworth in St Ives, whom he had met while she was in Rome with her first husband John Skeaping.  Now with Ben Nicholson, Hepworth introduced the Hoytons to her circle of friends, which included artists Naum Gabo and John Wells. In 1942, Wells, who at that time was a practising doctor in St Mary’s on the Isles of Scilly, invited Edward Bouverie Hoyton to stay.  Shortly afterwards, possibly inspired by his friends in St Ives and the uniqueness of the Scilly landscape, Hoyton experimented with abstraction, creating an extraordinary series of geometric landscapes that border on the Surreal. In later years, he distanced himself from this stylistic aberration, claiming that it was done simply ‘to prove to myself how easy it was’, and, by the 1950s, his work had returned to more representational landscape etchings.

Following his retirement in 1965, Hoyton dedicated his time completely to printmaking and to developing a market for his work. Among other projects, he produced illustrations for the Holman’s of Camborne calendar which was distributed around the world, and by the 1970s and 80s there was an increased demand for his etchings, especially among North American print collectors. From 1965 until 1981 he was Chairman of the St Ives Society of Artists, with whom he exhibited often, and he was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy, London. His last ever exhibition was held at the New Gallery in St Ives in 1987; he died the following year, bringing to an end a distinguished and prolific career. This exhibition includes a selection of work from the Edward Bouverie Hoyton Archive at Aberystwyth University, alongside loans from private collectors and works from Penlee's own collection.

In Memoriam: Works bequeathed or acquired as memorials

30 November - 11 January 2014

This exhibition brings together paintings and artefacts, ranging from paintings by Stanhope Forbes to exquisite Newlyn Copper, bequeathed to Penlee House or donated or purchased in memory of particular individuals.  There is no entry charge for this exhibition, so come and enjoy some of the treasures acquired 'in memoriam'.  Bequeathing a painting or artefact can have tax advantages for heirs, as well as offering a gratifying way to perpetuate the donor's name.  We can only accept items that fall within our Collecting Policy, so it is always best to talk to us about any intended bequest before making your Will: if you are interested, please contact the Director for a confidential chat. Exhibition sponsored by Coodes Solicitors.

From Darkness into Light

Graham Sutherland: Mining Metal and Machines 

14 September - 23 November 2013

In 1942, Graham Sutherland - one of Britain's leading C20th artists and perhaps the most famous painter of his day - was commissioned as an Official War Artist to document the industrial work supporting the War effort.  One of the chosen sites was Geevor Tin Mine, where his initial training as an engineer gave him an advantage.  This exhibition offers the public the first chance to see the works Sutherland produced at Geevor a few miles from their source of inspiration, alongside his other industry-inspired works.  Many of the pictures are on loan from a private collection in Southern Europe and have never been seen publicly before, so this will be a unique chance to view them.  To complement this exhibition, Geevor Tin Mine and East Pool Mine are working in partnership with Penlee to explore the relationship between art and industry and to celebrate the rich industrial heritage of the local area.  Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.  

Poems, Plays and Fairytales:

Literary-inspired works by Newlyn artists 

15 June - 7 September 2013

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. As the 20th 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 Shakespeare, Keats, Herrick and Browning, artists including Elizabeth Forbes, Thomas Cooper Gotch, Henry Meynell Rheam and William Wainwright produced sumptuous illustrative paintings in Medievalist style. Curated in partnership with freelance curator Catherine Wallace, this exhibition explores these literary-inspired works, offering a feast for the eyes and the imagination alike.

Art in Lamorna 1910 - 1914

16 March - 8 June 2013

The moving story of the celebrated artist Alfred Munnings’s first wife, Florence, first brought to the public’s attention by novelist Jonathan Smith, has now been made into a major new feature film starring Dan Stevens and Dominic Cooper (Metrodome Films).  The beautiful Florence Carter-Wood met the charismatic artist Alfred Munnings when she came to Newlyn to study at Stanhope Forbes’s School of Painting.  The couple married in 1912, but their marriage proved disastrous, with delicate Florence seeking solace in the company of gentlemanly Gilbert Evans, the Lamorna Valley land agent.

This exhibition brings together paintings by the artists working in Newlyn and around the Lamorna Valley at that time, giving depth to the story and putting it in context with the lives and work of the main protagonists’ circle.  It includes poignant memorabilia, such as Gilbert Evans’s personal diaries on which the story of the book and film are based.  There are also photographs of the real-life characters, which vividly portray the artists’ lives in pre-WW1 Cornwall. 

Florence was a much-loved member of the artists’ circle and she modelled for Laura and Harold Knight as well as Munnings.  Several of the paintings of her are included in the exhibition, one of which is The Morning Ride, a stunning portrait by Munnings of his wife on horseback which the artist gave to his friend and rival Evans: this was the painting used as the book cover image. 

The exhibition also includes major works by and of fellow Newlyn and Lamorna artists, including Dame Laura Knight’s iconic Self Portrait and Nude aka The Model on loan from the National Portrait Gallery, for which the model in question was Ella Naper, another member of the close-knit clique.  A rare example of Florence’s own painting is among the exhibits, as well as works by her fellow Forbes students such as Frank Gascoigne Heath, Dod Procter, Garnet Wolseley, Richard Copeland Weatherby and Jill and Geoffrey Garnier.

A visual treat in its own right, for fans of the book or viewers of the film, the exhibition will be a fascinating and moving insight into this halcyon art colony just before its peace was shattered by tragedy and the outbreak of The Great War.

CLICK HERE for a list of works included in the exhibition 

Troika Pottery: 1963 - 1983

19 January - 9 March 2013

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of Troika Pottery in St Ives in 1963, Penlee House Gallery & Museum in Penzance is presenting the first exhibition in twenty years of the work of the group of artists who created and made this now internationally famous brand of pottery.  Including works from private collections throughout the UK, the exhibition gives a rare chance to see a wide range of pieces together and in such quantity.

The exhibition aims to allow the visitor to experience Troika as sculpture rather than functional objects, to value these pieces as art rather than how much they are worth at auction.  These ideas were developed from the extensive research by Ben Harris and Lawrence Illsley which forms the basis of their new book, 'Troika 63-83', being launched at the exhibition to coincide with the anniversary celebration. 

Troika began as a commercial pottery in March 1963.  It was set up by potter Benny Sirota, sculptor Leslie Illsley and architect Jan Thompson.  Over time, Troika's work changed from functional craft objects to conceptual stand-alone pieces of sculpture, extending the ideas and practise of sculpture into the medium of clay.  The use of clay at Troika meant they, as artists, had access to this as a medium of creation.  By mass-producing their output, they were able to allow more people access to the ownership of art objects - a process known as 'the democratisation of art.'

By 1970, the business had outgrown its humble studio in St Ives and moved to Newlyn in order to continue its expansion.  Troika has had a major impact upon local history, both as a creator and as an employer.  This exhibition and book will attempt to highlight the importance of these later years.  It was in Newlyn that the highly unique textured range became fully developed and it was here that Troika produced work in such quantity that they were able to become the household name that they are known as today.

Although it is easy to see Benny and Leslie alone as the force which moulded Troika's journey through two decades, it is important to recognise the others who influenced the company's history.  To see Troika as a group, we also need to understand the contributions made by those people who joined the collective; the casters, fettlers, decorators, and those who bought the work they produced.  The book and exhibition intend to highlight this group dynamic and show work produced by many different hands.

Penlee Inspired: Art made in response to Penlee House's collections and exhibitions

1 December 2012 - 12 January 2013

Penzance's Penlee House Gallery & Museum has built a national reputation for its exhibitions of late 19th and early 20th century Cornish art.  Although this means that the majority of the works on show are usually by long-dead painters, their work still has a resonance with contemporary life that provides inspiration to today's artists.  To prove this, following the success of the inaugural Penlee Inspired exhibition in 2009, this Christmas the Gallery has again opened its doors to work by living artists, young and old, to show work produced in response to things they have seen on show. 

The response to this year's call for entries has been immense, with Gallery staff having the very difficult job of whittling down over 120 entries to just under 70 for inclusion.  Work has been submitted by both budding and established artists, from children through to octogenarians. Some pieces are by leading professional artists, while others are first time endeavours, including the first painting ever completed by one 63 year old Penzance man. 

Penlee House's Director, Alison Bevan, said "We were thrilled with the response, but it did make the job of choosing works extremely hard.  The priority for selection was not just about the quality of the work, but was primarily based on the response to the theme of the show.  We want the exhibition to be a celebration of the creativity that a visit to Penlee House inspires and have therefore prioritised works that have a clear, direct line of inspiration from an exhibit or workshop at the Gallery.  We have also sought to get a balance of sources of inspiration, so that there are no more than two or three works inspired by one particular piece."

Wherever possible, the contemporary works will be displayed alongside the source of inspiration, so Penlee Inspired will include a strong selection of Newlyn School and Lamorna group paintings from our own collections, together with loaned works from previous exhibitions borrowed again.  As well as much-loved favourites such as 'The Rain it Raineth Every Day' (Norman Garstin), 'School is Out' (Elizabeth Forbes) and 'Abbey Slip' (Stanhope Forbes), sources include archaeological exhibits such as the Penwith Lunula - a spectacular 4500 year old gold necklace, on loan from the British Museum, and models of local standing stones made by two spinster sisters in the 1840s. 

The show also gives another chance to see Dame Laura Knight's spectacular 'Flying a Kite', recently brought back to this country from South Africa for the first time since it was painted in Newlyn in 1910, and back at Penlee House for the duration of Penlee Inspired before being flown to America for a major exhibition at the Yale Centre for British Art.

The exhibition opens to the public on Saturday 1 December and runs until 12 January and is open from 10.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Saturday (closed Sundays and 24-27 December and 1 January).  Admission is FREE for everyone throughout Penlee Inspired and also includes entry to Crafts for Christmas, a selling exhibition of work by members of Cornwall Crafts Association, also on show from 1 December.

Sven Berlin: Out of the Shadows

15 September - 24 November 2012

On show from 15 September until 24 November 2012 is a major new exhibition of paintings, drawings and sculpture by the legendary artist Sven Berlin (1911 - 1999).  An influential and charismatic figure in the history of the St. Ives Art Colony, his reputation still resonates in its streets.  This retrospective, drawn from public and private collections throughout the UK and including many rarely-seen works, brings together the many phases of Berlin's life and work in the largest and most representative show ever to be staged.

A resolutely figurative and - as he proudly proclaimed - romantic artist, Berlin was ostracised by the Modernist movement and on leaving St. Ives in 1953, found himself facing relative obscurity, his book The Dark Monarch, a 'roman à  clef' of the art colony in the 1940s, compounding the state of affairs.  Yet his commitment to his work never faltered, and he was still sculpting, drawing, painting and writing until days before his death in December 1999.

His early artistic career was encouraged by a brief spell at Beckenham Art School under the guidance of Henry Carr R.A. and later of Dr Frank Turk, the adult educationalist.  Berlin used his youthful experiences as an adagio dancer in the music halls to explore form, at the same time producing stylish posters for their shows across the country and characterful gouache drawings of the stars of the day.  Pen and inks, pencil drawings and oils of that time and from 1938 onwards in Cornwall, are a testament to Berlin's dedication and reveal his skilled and perceptive draughtsmanship and his aptitude for colour. 

Berlin's first solo exhibition was held in 1939 at Camborne Community Centre and a striking portrait of his first wife Helga not shown since then is included in the Penlee exhibition.  Struggling to make ends meet, they found themselves in the midst of the St. Ives fraternity of artists where encouragement, support and inspiration came from key figures including Borlase Smart, Adrian Stokes, Ben Nicholson, Naum Gabo, Peter Lanyon and Bernard Leach.  At the same time he was researching a biography of primitive painter Alfred Wallis, finally published after the Second World War and still in print to this day.

Initially a Conscientious Objector, Berlin witnessed the bombing of Plymouth and after watching dog-fights over the Atlantic he decided to enlist.  His moving pen and inks, produced while serving as a Forward Observer immediately after the D-Day landings in France, Belgium and Holland, have a memorable poignancy. 

Invalided out of the army, Berlin returned to St. Ives, set up a studio in 'The Tower', and as a member of the St. Ives Society of Artists became a key player in the development of the St. Ives art movement.  He carved a number of works including the Mermaid and Angel (1948) and the Lion which was commissioned for St. Austell Brewery, also producing monotypes, a technique taught him by John Minton, pen and inks and oils.  The formation of the Crypt Group and then the Penwith Society led to his falling out with his fellow artists following the Modernist criteria set in order to exhibit.  Until then he had been included in many of the Crypt Group shows, in numerous exhibitions in St. Ives, London and elsewhere.  But the writing was on the wall as tempers frayed and disagreements festered. 

Berlin and his new wife Juanita left St. Ives in 1953 in a Gypsy wagon determined to start a new life in the New Forest and the exhibition also incorporates many of Berlin's New Forest Gypsy paintings, produced between 1953 and 1970, which had remained largely unseen until 2003 when they were shown at St. Barbe's Museum & Gallery in Lymington.  This event highlighted the affection in which Berlin was held in the New Forest and attracted many of the original Gypsy families who had helped him after he left St. Ives. 

Following a move to the Isle of Wight for five years with his third wife, Julia, and then to Wimborne in Dorset, his later work came from an altogether different palette, still however drawing on the natural world for inspiration and exploring different techniques and subjects.

Berlin's huge output also includes eleven published books, poetry, essays and still unpublished manuscripts.  Key letters and documents including those relating to The Dark Monarch and charting his friendships with major artists and writers will also be displayed.

The exhibition is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated book on the artist, priced at £22.50 but available from the Penlee House shop at a special exhibition price of £20. Please phone 01736 363625 to order a copy or for more information.

Click here to watch a 10 minute documentary film about Sven Berlin, directed by Cathy Sayers, VisionOn Communications, and funded by the Little Parc Owles Trust and the Friends of Penlee House.

Dame Laura Knight RA: In the Open Air

16 June - 8 September 2012

The redoubtable Dame Laura Knight (1877-1970) was a great celebrity in her time and her work is loved as much today as it was at the height of her fame.  From her earliest days in Nottingham and Yorkshire she wanted to paint in the open air, which blossomed when she came to Cornwall, where she embraced the county’s wonderful light, its seas and rocky coast, as well as plunging into the colourful life of the artists' colony.  Her long and successful career included becoming both the first woman ever elected as a Royal Academician and the first artist ennobled as Dame Commander of the British Empire.

This summer, Penlee House is staging the first ever major exhibition of Laura Knight's paintings to be held in her beloved Cornwall.  Called In the Open Air, the show looks at the paintings she executed in the landscape, including her iconic views of women on the Cornish coast through to the wide and beautiful panoramas of English farmland spread out below the Malvern Hills from her golden years as a painter.

Amongst the host of stunning paintings, the star exhibit is Flying a Kite, the large canvas she painted on the hilltop above Newlyn in 1910, never before been seen in the county.  It was shown to great acclaim at the Royal Academy that year, and was bought from there by Sir George Clausen for the National Gallery of South Africa (now Iziko) in Cape Town and it has been there ever since.  Penlee House is thrilled to have secured the loan of this magnificent painting, which, for the first time ever, will be on public display just a mile or so from where it was painted - the first time in over a century that it has been on show anywhere in the UK.

Flying a Kite alone is probably worth coming to the exhibition for, but other treats make it a truly unmissable show.  As well as Cornish works such as The Beach (Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle), Spring (Tate London) and A Summer's Day at the Rock Pool (Private Collection), the show includes the evocative paintings of gypsies that made Laura Knight famous in the late 1930s, such as Gaudy Beggars (Aberdeen Art Gallery) and Ascot Finery (Dundee Art Gallery). 

Although concentrating mainly on figures in the landscape, In the Open Air also includes Laura Knight's depiction of the Nuremberg War trials (The Dock, Nuremberg,Imperial War Museum London), painted in 1946.  As well as fulfilling her main task of painting prisoners such as Goering and Hess in the dock, she also included an evocation of the landscape of Nuremberg, shown still burning from Allied bombings.

Initiated by Penlee House, the exhibition will tour to the Djanogly Art Gallery, Nottingham (22 September - 4 November 2012) and Worcester City Art Gallery (17 November 2012 - 10 February 2013).  It is accompanied by a new publication, written by Elizabeth Knowles and published by Sansom & Company, priced £24.95, available from Penlee House at a special exhibition price of £20.00.

Sponsored by Messum's Gallery, London

Another Cornwall / Gens de Cornouailles: Art and Life in Finistere and Cornwall 1880 - 1930

24 March - 9 June 2012

Cornwall and Brittany have long had a close relationship, reflected in twinning of no fewer than 35 towns.  Nowhere is this closeness more keenly felt than the far west of Cornwall, whose relationship with the equivalent area of Brittany - Cornouaille in Finistere - dates back to the prehistoric past and really came to the fore when art colonies developed in each area.

In celebration of these links, Penlee House Gallery & Museum has been working with the Musée Départemental Breton in Quimper to stage an exhibition that will be shown at both venues.  Opening at Penlee House on 24 March, Another Cornwall / Gens de Cornouaille(s) focuses on the artistic links at the turn of the last century, between c.1880 and c.1930.  During this period, the art colonies in St Ives and Newlyn were populated by artists who had come fresh from the parallel colonies in Brittany, to the extent that Stanhope Forbes famously described Newlyn as "a sort of English Concarneau".

The influx of some of the greatest painters of their age into Brittany and West Cornwall meant that the lives of the indigenous communities in both places were captured for posterity.  This selection of paintings shows not only how artists from the Breton and Cornish colonies produced similar work, but also how the lives of the local people on both sides of the Channel had much in common.

The exhibition includes works by some of the most renowned Newlyn School names, including Stanhope and Elizabeth Forbes, Albert Chevallier Tayler, Harold Harvey, Walter Langley and Frank Gascoigne Heath - though many of the works themselves may be new to Penlee visitors, being largely rarely shown Breton subjects.  Alongside these are works by some of the leading French artists of their day, though their names are less familiar to a British audience: painters such as Henri Guinier, Alfred Guillou, Jean-Alexis Morin and Achille Granchi-Taylor.

Works have been borrowed from public and private collections throughout the UK and Brittany and many will be on public exhibition in Cornwall for the first time.  As well as paintings, the exhibition includes costumes and artefacts highlighting both the similarities and the differences between the two areas, and demonstrating how accurate these artists were in depicting the real lives of the fishing and farming communities in both places.

Another Cornwall / Gens de Cornouaille(s) runs at Penlee House Gallery & Museum from 24 March until 9 June 2012 and will then be shown at the Musée Départemental Breton in Quimper.

Through the Lens: Pictures from a Magic Lantern

21 January - 17 March 2012

On show at Penlee House Gallery and Museum from 21 January is an exhibition of long-lost photographs of the town and the surrounding district taken from a Magic Lantern slide show put together by an unknown local historian some 50 years ago.  The collection was purchased by Penlee House from David Lay's Penzance Auction House in 2009, with grant aid from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund  - a national organisation which helps Museums to buy important items - and funding from the Friends of Penlee House.  Since then, a team of volunteers has worked to scan and research the images so that they are now available for the public to enjoy for the first time in many decades.

The Magic Lantern was developed in the 17th century as an early form of image projector. It uses a concave mirror to direct a light source through a translucent slide so that the image on the slide is projected through a lens onto a wall or screen.  When it was first invented, candles or oil lamps were used as the light source and the images projected were painted onto the slide, but the invention of photography in the 1830s and of the electric arc lamp in the 1860s led to eventual use of the Magic Lantern to project photographic images with great clarity.  The technology was instrumental in the development of moving pictures, but was also used for illustrated lectures, in the same way that we use PowerPoint today.

With the popularity of photography in the Victorian era, animation and illustrated stories slowly gave way to real life documentary images. Magic Lantern slideshows were a great attraction and lanterns became widely available for the well-to-do home.  If you could not afford one, there would no doubt be a show going on in the village hall or school, where an excited crowd would gather to look at photographs of faraway places and momentous happenings.  This particular collection was clearly amassed to tell the history of the Penwith area through the 19th and early 20th centuries, using unique images of significant local events, ranging from shipwrecks and fires to major building projects, intriguing visitations and important celebratory gatherings.  It is hoped visitors to this exhibition will find these images of not so faraway places exciting and insightful in the same way as the original audience did all those years ago, and discover a local past through the lens of this collection.

The exhibition has been curated by the Penlee House Photographic Research Group, led by John Wallis and supported by Penlee's Technical Officer, Jeremy Rice.  John and Jeremy will give an illustrated talk on the Magic Lantern slide collection at Penlee House at 7.30pm on Monday 20 February: please call 01736 363625 for more information or to book (booking essential).  The show is sponsored by Perfect Pictures and prints of many of the images on show will be available for purchase.
Through the Lens: Pictures from a Magic Lantern is on show at Penlee House until 17 March.  Also on show is a large selection of paintings by Newlyn School artists (c.1880 - c.1930), together with some later paintings by 20th century Cornwall-based artists.
CLICK HERE for a list of photographs in 'Through the Lens'.
CLICK HERE for a list of the paintings on display in other galleries at Penlee House

 

A Forgotten Prodigy : Joan Manning Sanders (1913 - 2003)

19 November 2011 to 14 January 2012

An exhibition of paintings by a once world famous child prodigy artist, Joan Manning Sanders, whose work had not seen the light of day for many decades.

Joan's story is truly remarkable.  Born in 1913 to bohemian, creatively talented parents and raised surrounded by the celebrated Newlyn School artists, it is perhaps unsurprising that an early glimpse of artistic talent was nurtured.  She received her first artistic commission from Father Bernard Walke of St Hilary Church when she was only 13 and the six paintings she produced remain on view on the parclose screen in the Church's Lady Chapel.

This was just the start of Joan's unparalleled youthful success. Her parents' friends, including renowned artists such as Dod Procter, Laura Knight and Harold Harvey, admired and respected her work and all gave her encouragement. By the age of 16, she had exhibited several times in London, including taking the - still unsurpassed - record for the youngest painter to have work selected for the Royal Academy summer exhibition. Two hardback books were published about her work, one in the UK and one for the American market, and this, together with widespread media coverage, made her a household name.

Having achieved such triumph in her teens, it seems tragic that her artistic career lasted barely a decade and fame soon faded into utter obscurity. Artistic fashion moved away from Joan's figurative style and her attempts to mould herself into a more modernist technique were unsuccessful.  Paintings that had caused a sensation when first exhibited were consigned to the attic, taken off their stretchers and rolled to save space.  Works once purchased for substantial sums by enthusiastic collectors have vanished from record and cannot now be traced.  Thus the shining star of Joan the child prodigy vanished from our vision.

In order to stage an exhibition of Joan's work, Penlee House had the tricky task of obtaining paintings that were fit to be exhibited.  Thankfully Joan's son, John Floyd, had carefully preserved the canvasses his mother had left for the spiders, although years of being rolled and covered in dust made them impossible to show.  Two of the canvasses were taken to the renowned Painting Conservation department at the Courtauld Institute in London, where student Harriet Pearson brought them back to life, and another three were taken to conservator Alison Smith in Penzance.  Seen for the first time in eight decades, these astonishing works will be accompanied by information about the restoration process.

In addition to the newly restored paintings, a handful of pictures have been tracked down and borrowed from collections across the country, making a total of around a dozen of Joan's works.  The exhibition also includes paintings by some of her famous friends and mentors, such as Laura Knight, Dod Procter, Anne Walke and Harold Harvey, both from Penlee House's own collection and on loan from public and private collections.

Also on show was Crafts for Christmas, the annual selling exhibition of work by members of Cornwall Crafts, as well as a selection of Newlyn School paintings curated by pupils of Penpol School in Hayle.

Joan Manning Sanders: A Forgotten Prodigy was sponsored by Barbara Kirk Auctions and ran at Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance, until 14 January.  The exhibition was accompanied by a small book about the artist, written by Owen Baker.

Different Ways of Seeing: Joan Gillchrest, Bryan Pearce & Fred Yates

17 September - 12 November 2011

Penlee House is currently showing an exhibition called ‘Different Ways of Seeing’, bringing together works by Bryan Pearce, Joan Gillchrest and Fred Yates, three much-loved 20th century artists who have many threads in common. 

United by a shared love for Cornwall and individual, charmingly naïve modes of expression, the three exhibited together several times during their lifetimes, but this is the first time their works have been shown together since their deaths.  More-or-less exact contemporaries, all three died within 18 months of one another – Pearce, the shortest lived, in January 2007 aged 77; Gillchrest almost exactly a year later, in her 90th year, and Yates in July 2008, aged 85.  All three found particular inspiration from West Cornwall and the show concentrates on this aspect of their work, covering subjects such as Mousehole, St Ives, Penzance and St Michael’s Mount.

Of the three, Pearce was the only native Cornishman, being born and spending his entire life in St Ives.  Although Gillchrest was born in Berkshire and Yates – like L.S. Lowry, to whom his work is often likened – in Manchester, they both fell under the spell of West Cornwall and lived on the Penwith peninsula for significant periods – in Gillchrest’s case, in her beloved Mousehole for most of her life.  Consequently, there is much overlap in subject matter for all three painters, and all are remembered locally with great personal affection, as well as being much-loved for their art.

The idea for the exhibition arose in response to public demand: fans of each artist have approached Penlee House independently to ask if we might stage an exhibition of their favourite’s work.  Although the Gallery is best known for showing earlier Cornish artists, and in particular the Newlyn School (whose work can currently be seen in Gallery 5), there is a documentary quality to all three artists’ works that has a resonance with their forebears, as well as an instant popular appeal, so Gallery staff were delighted to embrace this exhibition.

‘Different Ways of Seeing’ has been curated by Penlee House in partnership with representatives of each of the artists.  In the case of Joan Gillchrest, this was the Wren Gallery, Burford, with the assistance of Joan’s family; for Bryan Pearce, it was the artist’s estate, assisted by Janet Axten, and for Fred Yates, it was the John Martin Gallery, London.  As usual for Penlee House’s exhibitions, the show includes paintings from public and private collections throughout the UK, and this show also includes a number of works on loan from the Royal Cornwall Museum from their extensive Bryan Pearce bequest.

The exhibition is sponsored by David Lay FRICS, The Penzance Auction House, and is accompanied by a new illustrated book on the three painters, published by Sansom & Co and with an introduction by Antiques Roadshow expert Dendy Easton. 

The show is also accompanied by a short film on each of the painters, produced by Cathy Sayers at Vision On Communications and supported by the Little Parc Owles Trust and the Friends of Penlee House, which can be accessed by clicking the links below:

Click here for the film on Joan Gillchrest and see below for more information about this artist
Click here for the film on Bryan Pearce and see below for more information about this artist
Click here for the film on Fred Yates and see below for more information about this artist 

About the artists in 'Different Ways of Seeing':

BRYAN PEARCE

Bryan Pearce was born in St Ives, Cornwall, in 1929, a sufferer of the then unknown condition Phenylketonuria, which affects the normal development of the brain. Encouraged by his mother who was herself a painter, and then by other St Ives artists, he began drawing and painting in watercolours in 1953. From 1953 to 1957 he attended St Ives School of Painting under Leonard Fuller.

In 1957, Pearce began painting in oils and started to exhibit regularly at the Penwith Gallery in St Ives. He became an Associate of the Penwith Society of Arts in Cornwall, and later a full member, having been sponsored by the sculptor Denis Mitchell. He was also a member of the Newlyn Society of Artists; it was at the instigation of Peter Lanyon that he had his first solo show at Newlyn Gallery in 1959.

Regarded as one of the country's foremost naive painters, Pearce was well know for portraying the local St Ives landscape and still-life compositions in oil, conte, pen and ink, and pencil.  In the early 1970s, he began to make small etchings with the assistance of fellow artists Breon O'Casey and Bryan Ingham, and later Roy Walker. Since 1976 a number of his oil paintings have been made into limited edition screenprints in order to bring his distinctive images to a wider public.
He always worked slowly, but consistently, producing perhaps twelve oil paintings a year. Often compared to Alfred Wallis, the late Peter Lanyon has said of him: "Because his sources are not seen with a passive eye, but are truly happenings, his painting is original."  Public Collections holding his work include the Tate Gallery, the Arts Council, the Contemporary Arts Society and Kettle's Yard, Cambridge.

JOAN GILLCHREST

Joan Linda Gilbert Scott was born in 1918 at Bentinck Street, London, W1 to Dr Sebastian and Alice Gilbert Scott.  After schooling at Rosemead School; Upper Chine School, Isle of Wight, and Wadhurst Boarding School, in 1934 she travelled to Paris to learn the language and develop her appreciation of art.  While in Paris, she met Gwen John in her studio.

From 1935-1939, she studied at the Grosvenor School of Art, and exhibited her work at the Royal Academy, New English Art Club and the London Group.  At the outbreak of the Second World War, she volunteered as an ambulance driver for the Westminster Hospital.

In 1942, Joan married Samuel Gillchrest and the following year their daughter, Marguerite, was born, followed in 1947 by son Paul.  Sadly, they divorced in 1953, prompting Joan to take up modelling for leading London fashion houses in order to earn a living and support her painting.

After moving to Tite Street, Chelsea, in 1955, she met the artist Adrian Ryan.  The couple moved to Cornwall in 1958 and Joan bought a cottage in Mousehole.  In 1965, Joan and Adrian split up; Adrian returned to London leaving Joan free to paint and she was soon exhibiting her work at local galleries in Mousehole, Penzance, St. Ives, leading to a first solo show at Plymouth Art Gallery in 1969.

Joan’s career developed over the next decade and she took part in many mixed and solo shows including, New Ashgate Gallery, Farnham; Windsor and Eton Fine Art Company Ltd; Leon Suddaby Fine Art; Newlyn Orion, and New Craftsman, St. Ives.  In 1990, she held her first exhibition at the Wren Gallery, Burford, where she held annual Solo shows from 1991 until her death in 2008.

FRED YATES

Born in 1922, Fred Yates grew up in Urmston, a suburb of Manchester. His career as an insurance clerk was cut short by the outbreak of war and he served in the Grenadier Guards until 1945 when he returned to Manchester as a painter and decorator.

Untutored, but with tremendous self-discipline, Fred began to paint pictures of the rich industrial architecture of Manchester, the red brick terraces and the commotion and humour of street life - a theme that the artist is still concerned with, even in his recent paintings. He subsequently enrolled on a teacher-training course at Bournemouth College of Art and in 1950 won a travelling scholarship to Rome and Florence.

He taught for twenty years battling continuously against artistic sophistication, for him, beauty resided in "simplicity and a child's mind". In 1969 Fred gave up teaching and moved to Cornwall to enable him to devote all his energy to painting. While he still painted scenes, remembered from his childhood in Manchester, he also worked on sunnier landscapes, new faces and activities that surrounded him.

His paintings are included in many private and public collections including Brighton and Hove Art Gallery, Liverpool University, the University of Warwick, Torquay Art Gallery and Russell Coates Gallery Bournemouth.