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Cornish Art Galleries - Penlee House, Penzance

Updated on October 6, 2016
Penlee House Art Gallery, Cornwall.
Penlee House Art Gallery, Cornwall. | Source

Penlee House is both a museum and art gallery located in the town of Penzance in Cornwall, England.

Penlee House Gallery is the only Cornish art gallery that specialises in the Newlyn School as well as early St Ives artists, focussing on the years 1880-1940.

Newlyn School

Newlyn School paintings are highly sought after at auctions - and go for very high prices. Hundreds though are still in the hands of local families, paintings handed down through the generations since their ancestors were either given paintings in exchange for goods or services, or who bought the paintings when they were first new. At one point there were over 30 artists at the core of the group.

It all started back in 1882 when Walter Vaughley moved into the area, followed shortly by his friend Edwin Harris. They founded an artists' colony in the area around Newlyn and Penzance, prompting many more famous and wealthy artists to join them.

The original Newlyn Art Gallery, founded in 1895, was a place for them all to display and sell their paintings, prior to submitting them to the Royal Academy in London. And it all grew from there.

Newlyn Art is highly sought after Cornish art of the finest time. Coming from this one group of painters that all lived and worked in the area, drawn by the good light and great scenery as well as the camaraderie the group brought them. These were the real celebrities of their day and why Newlyn Art is fetching fortunes in today's auction rooms.

Cornish Art

The Rain it Raineth, Norman Garstin, 1889.
The Rain it Raineth, Norman Garstin, 1889.
Penlee Park Entrance.   Photo by: Purely Penzance.
Penlee Park Entrance. Photo by: Purely Penzance.

Penlee House is managed by Penzance Town Council in association with Cornwall Council. Its most famous painting is "The Rain it Raineth" by Norman Garstin who lived for many years in Wellington Terrace, on the edge of the Park.

Once the group started to decline, a few stayed on and a new School of Art was opened by Stanhope and Elizabeth Forbes, producing a further generation of well respected artists.

In all, there was the core of Newlyn School artists, occasional and frequent visiting guest artists, as well as other artists who based themselves in nearby St Ives, Lelant and Falmouth - all producing work in the period that's of interest to the Penlee House Art Gallery and Museum.

Some famous names you might recognise from the art world that were connected to this movement are:

  • Frank Wright Bourdillon
  • Frank Bramley
  • Percy Craft
  • Elizabeth Forbes
  • Stanhope Forbes
  • Norman Garstin
  • Frank Gascoigne
  • Thomas Cooper Gotch
  • Frederick Hall
  • Edwin Harris
  • Harold Harvey
  • Walter Langley
  • Dod Proctor
  • Ernest Proctor
  • Albert Chevallier Tayler
  • Ralph Todd
  • Henry Scott Tuke

In all, this Cornish art gallery has work from over 40 artists.

There are permanent galleries which you can look around - but throughout the year there's always a special exhibition going on, so each time you visit you can be assured of seeing something new and exciting, or thought provoking. It's a fabulous feeling to know that these artists will have passed the building their art is now housed in, they were probably entertained there during their lives. They walked the same streets you just did and saw the same scenes, smelt that same sea air that you can now smell.

To have such a rich collection of local artists, that spear-headed such a magnificent movement, all held safely together in this one gallery, is a really special feeling. It's as if you can make a connection through time with the artists and their work, you can feel the art and not just see it!

Cornish Art

As these artists are well-renowned and sought after, the whole local area is a magnet for people interested in Cornish art.

Even today the area is still completely full of artists producing fresh new work all the time, all working away from tiny, or shared, studios - quite often selling their work for very little money as they're not known yet.  Many visitors are hoping to pick up some Newlyn School art, or Cornish art, locally. Many Cornish artists of today are rapidly becoming well-known and if you can pick up a bargain piece today from their studios, then when they become famous what you bought for just £40 today might be worth £4000 in the future, or more!

Many art collectors visit regularly, hoping to spot the next big names in the art world, hoping to snap up their work at cheap prices today and hang onto them until they've become world-famous. A lot of money goes into investing in art - not only do you have an investment, but you have something great to hang on your wall.

If you're interested in art at all, this is one gallery you should take the time to visit. If you're interested in history, then the paintings themselves depict local scenes as the artists all liked to go out into the local area and just paint everyday people going about their business.

Then, after your visit, why not take a stroll round the local artists workshops, shops and galleries and see if you can spot a rising star yourself!

Directions to Penlee House Gallery

Penlee House Gallery:
Morrab Road, Penzance, Cornwall TR18 4HE, UK

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Free on Saturdays. Under 18s free every day.

Penzance Railway Station:
Penzance Railway Station, Penzance, Cornwall TR18, UK

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Directions to Penlee House Gallery

You can drive to Penzance, or take the train.

Penzance train station comes right into the town and is the last stop on the London Paddington -> Cornwall main line. There's even an overnight sleeper train, arriving in Penzance early in the mornings, the cost of their cosy cabins is comparable to a budget hotel, so well worth the experience.

Opening Hours: Open Mondays to Saturdays, in summer the gallery is open 10am-5pm and in the winter it's open 10am-4.30pm. Last entry is half an hour before closing time. Summer runs from Easter Saturday to the end of September. Winter runs from the beginning of October to Good Friday.

The Penlee House Art Gallery closes between Christmas Eve and the New Year, so check the opening hours when you're ready to visit.

  • Address: Penlee House, Penlee Park, Morrab Road, Cornwall, TR18 4HE
  • Telephone: 01736 363625
  • Website:

Gallery Entry Prices:

In 2016 the entry prices for Penlee were:

  • Adults £4.50
  • Concessions (children & OAPs) £3.

Free entry for Penzance Pass holders, Monday to Saturday. To obtain a Penzance Pass take a household bill to the Gallery.

A loan wheelchair is available for use inside the Gallery. No dogs allowed inside the Gallery.

Purely Penzance: Penlee House
Purely Penzance: Penlee Park Entrance


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