November 18th The Father of the Newlyn School (Birth)

Born on this day in 1857 Stanhope Alexander Forbes RA (1857 – 1947) was regarded as ‘the father of the Newlyn School’.

Born in Ireland, the son of a French mother and an English father, Forbes was educated at Dulwich College and briefly studied art in London before moving to Luxembourg where his father was working.  Returning to London, he attended the Lambeth School of Art and then studied at the Royal Academy Schools under Sir John Millais.  One of his fellow students was Henry Herbert La Thangue who persuaded him to go to study in Paris (1880 – 1882).  Forbes and La Thangue went to Brittany where they developed their own, plein air, style.  Forbes married a fellow student Elizabeth Armstrong (December 29th), who painted the portrait top left, and they lived in Newlyn where they led the ‘Newlyn School of Art’.  With a growing family, though, they moved to Penzance.

Forbes became famous for his paintings of domestic or outdoor situations such as ‘Reading the News of the Queen’s Death in a Cornish Cottage’ (1901) (middle left) and ‘Gala Day in Newlyn’ (1907) (bottom left) and his first painting in Newlyn, ‘Abbey Slip’ (bottom, second from left).

Forbes' work is important because of the detail in his paintings which beautifully record historical personalities such in Walter Barnes, the conductor of the Penzance Orchestral Society in ‘The Violinist’ (1933) and portray everyday life in a bygone age as demonstrated, for example by ‘A Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach’ (1885, bottom, second from right) and ‘Florist and Fruiterer’ (1923, bottom right).

In 1915, three years after the death of Armstrong, Forbes married Maudie Palmer, who had been  ‘assistant, helper and friend to the whole Forbes family’.  During the First World War, his son with Armstrong, Alec served in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry and was killed in action on the Western Front in August 1916.

Forbes died in Newlyn on March 2nd, 1947 and is buried, with his first wife, in Sancreed Parish Churchyard.




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