Constantine Cornwall

“Compass’d by the Inviolate Sea”

A stunning seascape by David James entitled “Breakers” and painted in 1895 confronted members on entering the exhibition “Compass’d by the Inviolate Sea” at Penlee House Gallery and Museum, Penzance. The painting provided a great introduction to the exhibition curated by author and historian David Tovey.

Following a welcome by the Director, Louise Connell, the group were guided around the exhibition by Zoe Birkett, the Education officer. Members learned that the title of the exhibition was taken from Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “To the Queen”. Although the context of the poem is Great Britain here it has been transposed to Cornwall. The works of art on display focus on seascapes and coastal scenes. Artists included begin with Turner and end with Alfred Wallis, the retired St Ives Fisherman. Several of the works are by foreign artists lured by the magic of Cornwall. The works on display demonstrate a wide range of skills from the romantic to the decorative.

Turner epitomises the romantic school. He was commissioned to produce art work for engravings and produced sketches from his visit in 1811, which he worked up over a period of time. The Napoleonic Wars meant that the grand tour of Europe was no longer an option but published dramatic images of Cornwall and other home locations provided a lure to alternative destinations.

The 1846 visit by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert was recorded by artists and also helped to promote Cornwall whilst he development of the rail network was soon to make Cornwall more accessible to both artists and visitors.

Work from artists using the realist style, mainly from the 1860s follows those of the romantic school. Already members could see that particular locations were very popular with artists, no matter what their style, Kynance Cove, St Michael’s Mount, the Crowns at Botallack and Lands End appearing frequently. The work of John Brett included so much detail that botanists could identify the different lichens he painted on the granite! The development of photography at this time had an influence on artists who sought to achieve similar detail.  Hook often depicted working people in his coastal scenes showing them to be well fed and dressed!

Relevant works from the Newlyn School are featured, largely painted using the realist style and showing nature as it really is. Works by artists Stanhope Forbes and his wife are included.

The Swede Albert Julius Olsson set up an art school in St Ives which brought artists from America, Germany and Australia, for example, to learn to paint seacapes. Several works from foreign artists are on display .

The exhibition ends with works showing the increased use of colour and pattern as well as the more naive style of Alfred Wallis.

Don Garman, Secretary, thanked Zoe for a most informative guided tour of the impressive exhibition, which had been very much enjoyed by the group.

Jan Pentreath will be giving a talk on the “Ancient Village of Mousehole” in Constantine WI Hall at 19.15 on Friday September 16th. Visitors are welcome. Contact 01326 250604.