Painters I Should Have Known About (008) Stanhope Forbes

This months’s Mystery Painter is Stanhope Alexander Forbes, founder of the Newlyn School of painters, who lived a long and productive life between 1857 and 1947.

This picture shows Florence Munnings (known as Blote), wife of the successful and famous painter Sir Alfred Munnings who lived close to Stanhope Forbes. Later on in the same year that this picture was painted, the model took her own life.

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Through The Looking Glass Circa 1914

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I knew next to nothing about Stanhope Forbes until very recently.
I think I’d deliberately dismissed all the art produced by the Cornish painters from St Ives and Newlyn during the first half of the 20th Century from my mind, and written it off as “Provincial”.

What a mistake.

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Self Portrait

Here’s Stanhope Forbes’ self portrait. This first version is the normally printed version, just as the artist painted it.
But because any self portrait is flipped left to right, this second version (below) is a truer portrayal of the artist as others would have seen him.

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Flipped Self Portrait

This particular self portrait looked disgustingly dirty, so I’ve taken a liberty and brightened it up a bit too.
(I think that many of the old paintings available online have often not seen the restorer’s hand, and they frequently show the accumulation of many years of tobacco smoke, atmospheric pollution and industrial grime that give them a dirty yellow-brown sheen. We are being poorly treated by some of these online collections.)

Back to our subject: Stanhope Forbes was born in Dublin in 1857. His father was a railway inspector and his mother, Juliette de Guise, was French. The family moved to England and young Stanhope Forbes went to Dulwich College in South London and later to the Lambeth School of Art in London’s East End. His art master at Dulwich was John Sparkes who later headed the important Kensington Schools and Forbes also met his life long friend and fellow student, the naturalist painter Henry La Thangue at the college.

He later went on to the Royal Academy Schools (Just off Piccadilly in central London) in 1876 where he studied under such heavyweights as Leighton and Alma-Tadema, and in 1880 he went to Paris where he attended the studio of the painter Leon Bonnat.

Forbes was greatly influenced by the open air painter Jules Bastien-Lepage who had achieved success with his pictures of the everyday lives of agricultural workers.

Forbes’ friend La Thangue (who was a star pupil of Gerôme at the Ecole des Beaux Arts), first encouraged Forbes to paint in the open air when they went on a painting trip in Brittany together to escape the hot Parisian summer.

It’s probable that La Thangue introduced Forbes to the ‘square brush’ technique that he was to develop and perfect in his French and early Newlyn work. But the major change for Forbes was working out of doors, under the open sky directly in front of the subject, that revolutionised his work at this time.

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The Convent

At the time he said “It was paramount to obtain that quality of freshness, most difficult of attainment by any other means and which one is apt to lose when the work is brought into the studio for completion”.

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Shop in Quimperle

After Forbes sold this painting to the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool in 1882, he declaimed “I must do plein air or nothing. It is the only way to achieve success. To stick at one branch of painting and make it your own”.

In December 1883 Forbes took thea train from London to Cornwall and after searching around for likely areas, settled near Penzance in the fishing village of Newlyn, in January 1884.
His name would become inseparably associated with Newlyn from then on.

Newlyn became a sort of artist’s colony, similar to many that were being established around that time in Britain, France and elsewhere.

Stanhope Forbes’ presence in Newlyn quickly made it the focus of the ‘plein air’ movement in Britain.

Other notable artists in the town were Frank Bramley and Thomas Cooper Gotch, as well as Walter Langley, Edwin Harris, Fred Hall, and Ralph Todd.

Although Cornwall was a very amenable place for a painter with its mild climate, astonishing light and abundance of picturesque scenery, Forbes kept his eye on the main prize which was to be gained in the Royal Academy shows in distant London.

After about a year of work, this is what he wowed them with at the Academy in 1885 –

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Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach

Here’s a little study he made for the Fish Sale

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Study for “Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach”.

Forbes was a master of restraint and could exercise a really cool and controlled handling of colour.

Here’s a couple of interiors that show his skill with tonality.

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The Health of the Bride. 1889

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Against The Regatta 1889

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Harbour Window

Forbes was very fond of tonal works and he took particular delight in trying to capture the effects of the setting sun and the evening glow. Remember he was doing this as a dedicated open air painter which meant he would have to work on a canvases over many short sessions at the same hour of the day to get the light exactly right.
This was easier to achieve in the controlled indoor light of the blacksmithy.

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The Little Smithy
(I like the way that the light shines through the ear of the man on the right!)

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Forging The Anchor

A couple of evening exteriors:

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Newlyn Harbour From The South

Whatever you might think of the rest of Forbes’ work, this next picture must be ranked as his masterpiece. Just slow down and let your eyes drink in this view.

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Safe Anchorage

In 1899 Forbes and his wife, Elizabeth Adela Stanhope Forbes, founded the Newlyn Art School (It closed 1938).

Forbes was also one of the founder-members of the New English Art Club (NEAC) in 1886, and was elected a Royal Academician in 1910.

Elizabeth pre-deceased him by many years, dying in 1912 at the age of 52, and their only child William was killed on the front in France in 1916.

The nearby Penlee House Gallery and Museum has a very informative website dealing with the Newlyn school of painters, many of whose paintings are held in their collection.

Here’s the Artcyclopedia entry for Stanhope Forbes
Bridgeman Art Picture Library will allow you to see 70+ pictures by Forbes, all marred by their annoying bee watermark.

Below the “More” you can find an article written by Stanhope Forbes that appeared in The Cornish Magazine, entitled “A Few Reminiscences Of Newlyn.”


Continue reading Painters I Should Have Known About (008) Stanhope Forbes

ILM VFX Microsite

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Real, Or ILM?

This will probably be stale news to all you hip Visual Effects people that visit this site, but I post it anyway, because it might intrigue you as much as it did me.

Industrial Light and Magic’s microsite for Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Man’s Chest reveals some nicely presented nuggets about the Visual FX used in the film.

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Lots of CG trees, I think.

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So. Not real, then.

Mystery Painter #7

Last month’s mystery artist was married to the model in the painting, and they both went on to enjoy a long and happy life together.

This month there is a relationship between artist and model, but is a bond of friendship that unites them, rather than any romantic ties. In fact she was the wife of one of the painter’s best friends and associates (Hint: He was Knighted) and she and her husband lived very close to the town with which the mystery artist is strongly associated.

Although this picture is suffused with light and life, there is an undertow of tragedy in the lives of the sitter and the artist.

The mystery painter had been recently widowed, and the sitter comitted suicide just a few months after this picture was painted. Ars longa: Vita brevis.

Click on the thumbnail to bring up the big picture-

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Beautiful, isn’t it?

Whether you guess his identity or not, I’ll be posting one of my “Painters I should have known about” pieces about him soon. He painted some fabulous pictures, and I feel embarrassed about my ignorance of this landmark painter.

If you know who it is, bash his name into the comment box, please!

Carnegie Museum of Art. Photos of Pittsburgh

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Mesta Machine Company employee, 1913

The Carnegie Museum of Art, (One of the four Carnegie museums in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) has put up an online collection of photographs containing 752 images from 1874 through 1958 showing scenes from mills and factories, street scenes, portraits, and aerial shots of downtown Pittsburgh.

The series is composed of photographs by internationally regarded photographers such as Margaret Bourke-White and W. Eugene Smith, as well as lesser-known photographers such as Luke Swank, Hugh Torrance, Sol Libsohn, and Frank Bingaman.

There are also many striking photographs by unknown photographers.

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Mesta Machine Company employee, 1913
Click the thumbnails to enlarge

There are some outstanding compositions in this collection, and I’ve only selected a few here just to show the amazing quality of the photographs, as well as giving a flavour of Pittsburgh itself.

Pittsburgh’s industrial base was firmly grounded in steel production up until the early 1980’s.
The scale of some of the foundries and mills was truly staggering (See the photo above. What on earth would you do with a wheel that size?)

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Bessemmers Blow Orlando Romig, 1953

Flames shoot out of a pair of Bessemer furnaces at the Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation’s steel mill facility on the banks of the Monongahela River.

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Downtown Street Scene: Traffic at Corner of Sixth and Smithfield Streets Clyde Hare.

This site contains an extra bonus feature for the dedicated image hound. There’s a nice simple image magnifier whose interface does not get in the way of the pictures. (Read my earlier rant on the subject of clunky zoom gizmos)

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Downtown Street Scene: Traffic at Corner of Sixth and Smithfield Streets Close Up.

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Pedestrians on Smithfield Street Clyde Hare.
I wonder how long Clyde Hare waited for this amazing grouping to occur.

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Worker and machinery at Jones & Laughlin Pittsburgh Works Clyde Hare. 1956

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On Fineview Hill Harold Corsini, 1950
Two adults and three children on a sidewalk in Pittsburgh’s Fineview neighborhood.

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Boy Dressed for Sunday Richard Saunders, 1951
This boy must be a man in his mid sixties by now. I wonder how he’s doing in life.

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Health Care: Visiting Nurse and Patients Sol Libsohn, 1950

I make no apology for posting these two very similar masterpieces of chiaroscuro taken within a short time of each other by Sol Libsohn.

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Member of the Visiting Nurse Association treats an elderly woman in her home. Sol Libsohn, 1950

It looks as if it is the same woman as in the previous photo, which makes me wonder if these shots were set up in some way, or whether they are as they seem; purely documentary.

Beautiful, nonetheless.

I’ll wrap this small sampling with a gem that has a timeless, almost painterly quality to it.

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Woman on Wooden Stoop, Rowley Street. Richard Saunders, 1951

I particularly like the triangular arrangement of the subjects, each of whom seems to be wrapped in their own world.
There are so many compositional elements at work here, not least the shallow z-depth of the scene within which all the contrasts occur. Balancing all these elements is a real tour-de-force.

Here’s the Link again.