Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Amongst Heroes: The Artist in Working Cornwall - superb exhibition in zillionaire William Astor's office

A Fish Sale On a Cornish Beach (1885) represents the extraordinarilyy original plein-air painter Stanhope Forbes at his best. Cornish folk don't dress much like Forbes's models these days, and the fish market is a much more orderly affair, but, by God, that's a Cornish beach all right - you can feel the dankness of the air, hear the cawing of the gulls and you know just how the sodden sand would feel under your wellies. The 27-year old Forbes was worried by the painting's likely reception, given his use of a startlingly large canvas for such a seemingly humdrum subject, but the Royal Academy praised it as a "work of extraordinary force and accomplishment".

Thereafter, artists flocked to Cornwall - in particular, to Newlyn, St Ives and, later, Lamorna Cove - and it's their depictions of working folk up to the Second World War that this excellent exhibition at Two Temple Place is concerned with. For background, let me point you to an entertaining piece by Brian Sewell in the Evening Standard, here. I'll just say that the exhibition left me positively gagging to get back to my favourite county in England - oh, okay, in the world. Here are a few more of the wonderful paintings on display:

William Wainwright The Pilot (1884)
Charles Napier Hemy Pilchards (1897) 
Henry Scott Tuke Our Jack (1886)
Harold Harvey The Clay Pit (1923) 
Adrian Stokes The Setting Sun (1909) 
Stanhope Forbes Against Regatta Day (1906)
The building housing the exhibition is well worth a visit for its own sake. Overlooking the Thames on Victoria Embankment, just a couple of minutes from Temple Station, Two Temple Place was commissioned as an office for the ludicrously wealthy American William Astor in 1892, just two years after he'd quit in America, having declared it a country unfit for a gentleman to live in. His chosen architect was 73-year old J.L.Pearson, who had designed Truro Cathedral. The old chap did a truly splendid job:

(A tad bigger than my office, I'll admit.)


  1. Very much enjoyed this post. Thank you.

    I am not quite sure about the conventions of blogging. I understand that you can disagree or agree in commenting, but is it alright to say that you simply enjoyed something or is that redundant?

  2. That is perfectly acceptable - indeed, much appreciated.