Our family managed to get away for a week in Cornwall, just as the sun finally emerged from two months of pluvial grey skies.
We stayed near Maenporth Beach, just round the corner from Falmouth. Large ships anchor in the bay, either refuelling or waiting to enter the deep water port and repair yards of Falmouth.
(Für vergrÃ¶ÃŸerte Darstellung bitte anklicken)
Life saving surfboat crews doing competitive training at dusk, off Maenporth beach.
A pure “Golden Hour” moment.
Falmouth has an art gallery that was showing a collection of pieces by Miro, as well as a few canvases from its permanent collection. (Hint: The printing service on their website gives a glimpse into more of the permanent collection. Click here.)
Their postcard rack also highlighted some local artists previously unknown to me.
The Bombing of The British Chancellor in Falmouth Docks, 1940
Painted by Charles Pears 1878 – 1958 (Please click the thumbnails to enlarge them)
Falmouth Harbour at Night, 1902
Painted by Claude Rowbotham (1864 – 1949) with a nod to the Japanese prints that were so much in fashion at the time.
Leslie In The Studio 1923
By Thomas Martine Ronaldson (1881 – 1941)
Kennel Vale, Ponsanooth Watercolour by William Martin (1899 – 1988)
This next painter was known to me, however. Laura Knight is perhaps best known for her pictures of dancers and children, but here we have a more robust subject in pencil and watercolour from 1914, showing the hard manual labour in a china clay pit, presumably near St Austell, executed with great dash and using a very limited palette.
China Clay Pit 1914
By Dame Laura Knight (1877 – 1970)
She was the first woman to be elected a full member of the Royal Academy. (1936)
Here’s her self portrait –
I’m sorry, I don’t know when she painted this, but I’m glad she left us with this image of a person who clearly had a very vivacious character.
One thing I was particularly keen on visiting was the gallery and museum at Penlee House in Penzance, which by happy coincidence had amassed their biggest ever collection of Stanhope Forbes’ works in one exhibition called, er: “Stanhope Forbes”.
Penlee House Gallery and Museum, Penzance, Cornwall, TR18 4HE
I’d seen many web pictures of Forbes’ work when researching my long post about him last December, so it It was a great opportunity to see his paintings in real life.
On Paul Hill 1922
By Stanhope Alexander Forbes (1857 – 1947)
Penlee Gallery have done a superb job of presenting Forbes’ work, and the visitor can feel a real sense of local pride in this painter who was so closely identified with the area.
What made the visit so enjoyable for me, aside from seeing all the paintings, was the collection of little cartoons, drawings and scribblings produced by Forbes’ fellow Newlyn artists. I was struck by the fact that all of them had such beautiful handwriting.
A further big pleasure for me was to go just another few miles and visit the crew at Spider Eye in St Just. Morgan and Erica had to remain tight lipped about a special project of theirs that was about to take off, but until contracts are signed, they will have to remain schtumm. Nice to see Michael Flaherty there too.
One of the reasons that so many artists were attracted to this far flung corner of the British Isles was the quality of the light. If you think about it for a moment, the quality of light has to be different for a long, thin penninsula. The sun shines down on the sea and much of the light is bounced up again, only to be reflected down once again by whatever cloud cover is in place at the time. So many photons ricocheting round are bound to give an enhanced radiance to the light. This effect of enhanced luminosity is especially strong to within about 5 miles from the sea shore. The further you go inland, the less you see of this lighting effect, because the ground is absorbing it.
Now the light that’s good for the painter is also good for plants, and when combined with the benign influence of the warm North Atlantic Drift, you get a climate where plants grow like nowhere else in Britain. In this part of Cornwall, they “grow like smoke”.
There are many small valleys that run down to the rivers and down to the sea, and because most of them are completely sheltered from the fury of Atlantic gales howling in from the West, the plants in these valleys thrive mightily.
One such valley extends southwards from the house at Carwinion, in the village of Mawnan Smith. It’s a small, almost intimate valley that leads down to a tiny beach on the Helford River.
I was once astounded to see Pete Townshend (of The Who) standing on this little beach with no-one else around. A surreal moment.
Carwinion has a 12 acre garden nestling in the upper part of the valley, and much of it has been given over to an amazing collection of bamboos, planted in and amongst some truly fantastic trees, huge Gunneras, and astounding tree ferns.
Bamboo aficionados running for their lives as their guide warns them in graphic terms about the prodigious growth rate of Chusquea culeou.
Here’s the terrace area at Carwinion. It is famous for one of the best clotted cream teas in Cornwall. Yum.
My connection to Carwinion goes back some 20 years or more to the day when its owner, Anthony Rogers, kindly allowed me to snoop round his garden that he had opened to visitors in aid of the Macmillan Cancer Nurses fund. His entry in the famous Yellow Book included the magic word: Bamboo. Look what has happened to his garden since that day, way back in 1984
Phyllostachys edulis The famous and fabulous Moso bamboo, growing beautifully in Carwinion. The safest place to be during an earthquake!
Lastly, on our way home we stopped for several hours at the amazing Eden Project.
Here’s a little pano of the tropical biome –
The Eden Project, Tropical Biome.
(This panoramic image might take a while to load for people with dial-up connections.)
Click the thumbnail to see a mahoosive panoramic picture!