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6 Famous Cornwall Artists

Updated on June 14, 2013

There have been many famous Cornwall artists, some associated with the Newlyn School of Artists and many who lived, worked and painted in St Ives or further afield in Cornwall.

Discover famous Cornwall artists and see their work explored below, including some more recent artists.

The majority of these early pioneers were not born in Cornwall, but found themselves in the area and, discovering the beauty of the local beach scenes, everyday life scenes and landscapes, along with the spectacularly "good light" of the area, they stayed and made their mark on the art world. The good light in the St Ives area of Cornwall has been studied to see if it's a myth and it is based on fact, it's caused by the clean air, blue sea and the yellow of the sand, which combine to make local colours starling to the eye and spell-binding.

Famous Cornwall Artists: An Artists Perspective of St Just Church
Famous Cornwall Artists: An Artists Perspective of St Just Church | Source

The Tate has a gallery in St Ives, Cornwall, where a lot of historical local Cornwall artists are exhibited, as well as featuring more modern artists and current/contemporary artists. The Cornwall Tate Gallery is part of a group of four Tate galleries in England.

There are hundreds of smaller galleries across Cornwall and, to this day, the area is a magnet for artists to visit or settle.

Lamorna Birch, 1869-1955.

Samuel John "Lamorna" Birch, RA, RWS wasn't born in Cornwall, but moved to Cornwall in 1892, where he joined the Newlyn School of Artists. Many of his paintings depict Lamorna Cove, which is just 3-4 miles south of Newlyn.

Although first drawn to Cornwall by the Newlyn group of artists, Lamorna Birch was so enthralled by Lamorna Cove he ended up starting a second group based around his adopted home of Lamorna.

Producing in excess of 20,000 pictures, it is quite achievable to own either a Lamorna Birch print or original for yourself. Most of his work is in oils and watercolours.

Stanhope Forbes, 1857-1947.

Stanhope Alexander Forbes, RA, was one of the founding members of the famous Newlyn School of Artists, often referred to as the father of the school. Born in Dublin, he moved to Cornwall and married a local Newlyn painter (Elizabeth Armstrong) in 1889. Three years after Elizabeth's death in 1912 he married a former student, Maude Palmer. A year after this, his only son with Elizabeth died on the battlefield in World War One.

Most of his paintings are oils, although he also tutored watercolours.

Stanhope Forbes prints are easily to be found for sale.

Charles Napier Hemy, 1841-1917

Most famous for his marine paintings Charles Napier Henry moved to Falmouth, Cornwall in 1881. Probably his three most famous paintings are in the Tate collections:

  • Evening Gray, painted between 1866‑8
  • Pilchards, painted in 1897
  • London River, painted in 1904.

Charles Napier Hemy died in 1917 in Falmouth, Cornwall.

Dame Laura Knight, 1877-1970

Dame Laura Knight,DBE, moved to Cornwall in 1907 with her husband, artist Harold Knight, to join up with fellow artists in Newlyn, where her associates included the famous artist Lamorna Birch, as well as the controversial Aleister Crowley, the occultist.

Dame Laura Knight was an impressionist painter.

After the first world war, she left Cornwall and moved to London and in 1935 became the first woman elected to the Royal Academy of Arts. During the second world war Laura Knight was one of only three women who were official War Artists, travelling abroad for the Ministry of Information -- she later also became the official artist for the Nuremberg War Trials.

After the war, both Dame Laura and her husband would return to Cornwall regularly to paint.

During her lifetime, Dame Laura Knight produced only 250 paintings and wrote two books:

  • Oil Paint and Grease Paint, 1936
  • The Magic of a Line, 1965

Dame Laura Knight died in 1970, aged 92, having outlived her husband by nine years.

Walter Langley, 1852-1922

Walter Langley was one of the founding members of the Newlyn School. Walter Langley moved to Newlyn with his family in 1881, when he was awarded £500 for a year's work by a Birmingham photographer.

Walter Langley was a keen painter of the working classes, in particular, fishermen and their families, unusually portraying them with a sympathetic eye, rather than the bleak and desperate scenes popularly portrayed by other local Newlyn artists. Two of his more well-known paintings are:

  • For Men Must Work and Women Must Weep, painted in 1883.
  • Between The Tides, painted in 1901

Walter Langley originally initially painted mostly in watercolours, only moving onto oils at a later stage. Oils were considered more prestigious and, as Walter liked painting the working classes, oils didn't suit his subject matters in his earlier days.

Walter Langley was a very prolific painter.

Patrick James Woodroffe, 1940-

Patrick James Woodroffe, is a famous fantasy science-fiction artist. He moved to Cornwall in 1964, with his family, becoming a full-time artist in 1972. Working initially in pen and ink drawings, he came to prominence when Corgi asked him to produce 90 book cover paintings from 1973-1976. He also produced many record album sleeves for famous musicians and groups at the time including Judas Priest's Sad Wings of Destiny in 1976.

As well as continuing to produce book sleeve covers and album covers, he also produced a few sculpture pieces in the 1990s/2000s.

Patrick Woodroffe has also written a number of books on his art techniques:

  • Mythopoeikon, published in 1976
  • A Closer Look at the art and techniques of Patrick Woodroffe, published in 1986

Patrick James Woodroffe is still living and working as an artist in Cornwall.

Famous Cornwall Artists:

Art Type & Style
Lamorna Birch
Oils and watercolours
Stanhope Forbes
Charles Napier Hemy
Figures and landscapes
Dame Laura Knight
Walter Langley
Watercolours and oils.
Patrick James Woodroffe,
Fantasy, book and album covers.

More Cornwall Artists:

Not every artist can become "famous" - and just because an artist isn't famous does not mean their artwork is of a lesser quality.

There are many good artists and famous artists in Cornwall. Two of my favourites are:

  • Ponckle Fletcher, who painted and had a gallery in St Ives until her death, aged 77, in 2012
  • David Dyer, who signed a lot of his early work as "Owens", also had a good following until his death, aged just 59 in 2006.

Many Cornwall Artists command good prices for their work - and there are always a lot of emerging artists who it is worth investing in now, while they are not so well known. There is a style to suit everybody's taste and budget.


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    • cornwall_UK profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Cornwall, UK

      Thanks for that Imogen. I've still got my Cornish art galleries hubs to get round to typing up .... all good intentions and not enough time, especially now the season's started again!

    • Imogen French profile image

      Imogen French 

      6 years ago from Southwest England

      Hello again Cornwall UK - I did a hub on some of the Cornish galleries after a visit a couple of years ago. Hope you don't mind me dropping in a link.

      I'll hop over and take a look at your Barbara Hepworth hub now ... I absolutely loved that museum with it's beautiful garden.

    • cornwall_UK profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Cornwall, UK

      Thanks for commenting Imogen

      I wrote a piece about the Barbara Hepworth Museum a little while back:

      I never used to like the Naïve Art that is to be found in the West of Cornwall, but I now find it's that which draws me in. In particular Ponckle Cat Paintings - a famiy member was a keen collector of original Cornwall paintings in the early/mid 1990s and has quite a lot. I also know somebody with a couple of Owens oil paintings (10"x8") from the mid 1990s.

      As Cornwall artists are producing new works all the time it's interesting to try to spot the future bright stars among them.

    • Imogen French profile image

      Imogen French 

      6 years ago from Southwest England

      I do love the Newlyn school paintings, they are very evocative, and a wonderful reminder of a bygone era. I also enjoy the work of some of the 20th century St Ives artists such as Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson. Nice hub :)


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