This week’s Image of the Week is shamelessly robbed from the current (and ending soon!) Stuart Shave/Modern Art exhibition of Alfred Wallis’ work in association with Kettle's Yard, University of Cambridge. Made up of thirty-nine paintings produced over twenty years from the 1920s to 1940s.

“Alfred Wallis was an artist and mariner. He was born in Devonport in 1855, and claimed to have gone to sea at the age of 9, working on vessels that sailed across and fished the Atlantic. He moved to St Ives in 1885 and by 1887 had set up business as a marine merchant, from which he retired in 1912. Wallis took up painting “for company” following the death of his wife in 1922. He painted from the memory of his experiences, depicting ships at sea, wrecked, and at harbour, as well as, less often, houses and landscapes. His paintings are not composed according to perspective but rather instinctively and according to the relative prominence of the subject, painted on salvaged fragments of card, paper and board, typically in a restrained palette of greys, browns, blues and greens. Alfred Wallis and his paintings were 'discovered' by the British modernists Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood whilst visiting St Ives in 1928. Nicholson especially came to hold Wallis' work in high esteem, and he and his circle remained its champions and supporters. Old age and poverty eventually led Wallis to a workhouse in Penzance, where he died in 1942 at the age of 87. He was buried in St Ives, where his grave overlooks Porthmeor Beach” (Modern Art website)

The exhibition highlights the Wallis collection held at Kettle’s Yard – the largest single collection of his work.

Alfred Wallis runs until 8th August at Modern Art, 4-8 Helmet Row, London, ECIV 3QJ

As a footnote to this post - After a recent visit to the world's oldest sea-washed lighthouse, the Bell Rock just off the coat of Arbroath, I came across this full-text diary of writer and artist R.M. Ballantyne (1825-1894) who spent 16 days on the lighthouse in April and May 1865. The fascinating account, published in full here gives a great insight into a different kind of engagement with the sea.



AuthorSacha Waldron