Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance
The artistic heart of West Cornwall's history

School is Out, 1889

Oil on canvas

Elizabeth Forbes

1859 - 1912

Canada-born Elizabeth Adela Forbes, nee Armstrong, was one of the leading women artists of her day. Her marriage to Stanhope Forbes was a partnership of equals, and their School of Painting was very much a joint enterprise.



Elizabeth Forbes - 1859 - 1912

Stanhope Forbes’s wife, Elizabeth, was born in Ontario, Canada, the much-loved youngest child of a Canadian government official. She came to England in the 1870s, chaperoned by her mother, to study art at the South Kensington schools. After a brief return to Canada due to her father’s death, her studies continued in New York, London and Munich. Elizabeth then sought artistic inspiration in Brittany (1882), Holland (1884) and Cornwall (1885), where she met her future husband. After a lengthy engagement, she and Stanhope married in 1889 and made Newlyn their home.

Throughout her career, Elizabeth Forbes continually developed and changed her work in response to new stimuli. Before marriage, she had produced etchings influenced by Whistler and Sickert, while her early work in Newlyn bears the hallmarks of French realist painting. She is particularly known for painting pictures of children, including her own son, Alec.

Elizabeth Forbes was a vibrant contributor to the art colony, exhibiting and selling more work than most of her male contemporaries. Sadly, she died of cancer in 1912, aged only 52 and her obituary mourned the loss of ‘the Queen of Newlyn’. Stanhope outlived her by 35 years (in 1915 he married Maudie Palmer, a former student of the Forbes’s School and friend of the couple).

For further information, see 'Singing from the Walls: The Life and Art of Elizabeth Forbes', Cook, Hardie and Payne, published by Sansom & Co.