A new exhibition has opened at the Royal Cornwall Museum
in Truro that showcases the evolution of St Ives art from 1840 to 1940.
Curated by leading St Ives art expert and collector David Tovey, who has written eight books on the subject, the paintings on display include a number of rarely seen early works that give a glimpse of the mining, fishing and shipbuilding industries that brought the town prosperity in the first half of the nineteenth century. Of considerable interest is one of the harbour beach at St Ives swarming with townsfolk busy unloading pilchards from seine boats after a massive catch.
From the pre-colony period, artists featured include the Royal Academicians, Edward William Cooke, who visited the town in 1848, and James Clarke Hook, who was one of the first to take advantage of the completed rail link in 1860. There is also much of topographical interest in these early works - John Mogford's 'Summer Moonrise, St Ives', for example, shows the old mine engine house on Pednolva Point, which was later converted into an artist's studio. The stand-out work from the pre-colony period, however, is the large 'Fish Sale, St Ives', painted by Alberto Ludovici Jnr in 1883 - a year before Stanhope Forbes' far better known depiction of the scene at Newlyn.
The St Ives art colony was formed in 1885 when artists began to make the town their permanent home providing a much needed boost to the local economy as traditional industries dramatically declined. The exhibition features not only some of the British artists, like Adrian Stokes, Julius Olsson, Dorothea Sharp, Charles Simpson, John Park, Arthur Hayward and Borlase Smart, who were key figures in the colony, but also artists from overseas who, whilst remaining relatively unknown in this country, became leading figures in their home nations. Americans Frederick Judd Waugh and Elmer Schofield, Australians Richard Hayley Lever, Charles Bryant and Sir William Ashton, Canadian Harry Britton and Frenchman Henri Valensi all enjoyed great artistic success and were drawn to St Ives because of its worldwide reputation as a centre for the practice and teaching of landscape and marine painting.
David Tovey's interest in St Ives art was inspired by the fact that his great grandfather, William Titcomb, was one of the early settlers in the St Ives colony, and the exhibition includes Titcomb's work 'Gull Nesting, showing boys plundering nests on the cliffs by Hor Point, near St Ives.
He said: This exhibition, which combines works from my own collection and that of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, provides not only an interesting overview of what I consider to be the heyday of representational art in Britain's premier art colony, but also highlights some of its less known and neglected aspects during a period of great change.
A Century of St Ives Art will run at the Royal Cornwall Museum in River Street, Truro, throughout 2013.