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

Jubilee Hat, 1887

Oil on canvas. On loan from private collection.

Frank Wright Bourdillon

1851 - 1924

Best known for his dramatic historical reconstructions, such as the painting 'Duel On Bideford Sands' (Sydney Art Gallery), Bourdillon also produced some fine Newlyn School paintings during his brief artistic career.



Frank Wright Bourdillon - 1851 - 1924

Bourdillon’s career as an artist spanned only twelve years. Born in India, the son of a civil servant, he started his working life as a coffee planter and began painting as a hobby, recording India’s exotic birdlife. Encouraged by a friend, he left India to study art, first at the Slade, London, followed by a year (1883-4) in Paris.

Returning to England in November 1884, Bourdillon moved to Oxford, where he began to paint in earnest with the aim of exhibiting at the Royal Academy; his first work was accepted there in 1886. In May that year, Bourdillon moved to Cornwall, living first at Polperro and arriving in Newlyn early in 1887.

In Newlyn, Bourdillon continued to paint pictures aimed at the Royal Academy, meeting with only occasional success. Influenced by the Newlyn ethos, he painted a few interior ‘social realist’ genre scenes using the ‘square brush’ technique, of which ‘The Jubilee Hat’ is perhaps the best example. He felt that costume work was his true metier, however, typified by his famous ‘Duel on Bideford Sands’ of 1890 (Sydney Art Gallery).

A popular member of the Newlyn colony, Bourdillon remained here for five years, leaving both the village and his painting career in 1892 to return to India, this time as a Christian missionary, and painting only one more known work before his death, in Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire, in 1924.