|Penzance School of Art - from life class to canvas.
Cornwall has long been a hotbed of
artistic activity with famous artists
like Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson. Inside Out celebrates 150
years of the Penzance School of Art.
For decades Cornwall has had a strange lure for painters
and sculptors. They're attracted by the light in
places like St Ives, Newlyn and Penzance.
But long before artists Barbara Hepworth and Laura Knight had been given
their first colouring books, Penzance was the centre of it all.
The town was the home of one of Britain's first provincial
art schools. Inside Out goes revisits the college and looks back at 150
years of art and the school's legacy of famous artists.
Penzance School of Art
of Art - home to generations of young artists
To celebrate its special anniversary, Penlee House Gallery
and Museum in Penzance is holding an exhibition of work from the tutors
The show, which runs until November 8, includes paintings, drawings, sculpture
and ceramics from such diverse figures as Bernard Leach, Barbara Tribe,
Robin Welch and William Colenso, who won the Victoria Bronze Medal in
Founded in 1853, the Penzance School of Art was a place where the young
working men of Cornwall learnt how to mix paints in their palettes.
They also discovered that painters could make much easier
money than pilchard fishermen... without having to work in dangerous conditions
in difficult weather.
It was very different back then. Men wore stovepipe hats and students
restricted their life studies to the less controversial extremities, like
hands and feet - and then only plaster models.
Although in the 1850s civilisation was being shaken to its very foundations
on a daily basis by the likes of Charles Darwin and Karl Marx, nudity
had not yet reached Penzance.
Indeed the first train had only arrived a couple of
years before. Nevertheless, Penzance was the first town west of Bristol
to have an art school.
The school's head was a dynamic Frenchman, Henry Geoffroi,
whose mission was to bring art to the common man and woman.
strokes - students put pen to paper
Peter Waverley says, "In those days I think the
sort of people who went were people with some spare money, the artisan
class, not the working class because it cost 6d a week."
In 1881 a grand purpose built school was opened, paid for by donations.
The school was the pride of the town.
Even Oscar Wilde was given a guided tour when he was
Over the next 150 years the school was to produce a number
of artists who would go on to become internationally acclaimed.
Fame and Fortune
The Penzance School of Art became a honey pot of artistic
endeavour, and many of its students and lecturers went on to greater things.
|THE CORNISH ART
Married to Barbara Hepworth. Lived in Cornwall 1939-1958.
Renowned for abstract works and cool colours.
Well known as a war artist. Famous for his challenging
Best-known British studio potter. Set up Leach Pottery in St Ives.
Internationally acclaimed sculptor with carvings in stone, marble
and wood. Based in St Ives.
Led the Newlyn School of painters. Favoured open air painting
using the atmosphere and realism of local colour.
Active member of Crypt group of artists in St Ives. Took up gliding
to get better knowledge of landscape. Died in gliding accident.
One of the 2nd generation of Newlyn painters in the 1920s.
The artist Peter Lanyon studied at Penzance School of
Art during the mid 1930s.
He became internationally famous for his work in the
50's and '60s, with one man shows in New York, London and Brazil.
Lanyon drew inspiration from living in Cornwall's artistic
colony, and was heavily influenced by fellow artists Ben Nicholson and
Lanyon met Nicholson and Hepworth in St Ives during the
Second World War, together with the renowned sculptor Naum Gabo who had
moved to Cornwall after the outbreak of Second World War.
Terry Frost took life classes at the school in the 1950s
as did David and Michael Leach in the 1930s.
Much earlier another well-known artist Stanhope Forbes
was a visiting lecturer at the Penzance Art School.
a successful career as a painter, he also founded the Newlyn School of
Art with his wife Elizabeth in 1899.
The Newlyn painters went on to become Cornwall's answer to the Impressionists.
Potty About Art
During the war, the Penzance School of Art started pottery classes - requested
by American servicemen who were at a bit of a loose end.
love with clay - Cornwall was a hotbed of craftsmen potters
The man who really pioneered pottery at the school was
Bernard Leach, the father of modern British ceramics.
Leach had already set up the famous Leach Pottery in St Ives, experimenting
with materials and building kilns.
During his career he shuttled between Cornwall and Japan
where he was heavily influenced by Japanese pottery.
Bernard Leach became Britain's leading potter.
He remains one of the most influential designers of the
20th century. Today his designs are revered worldwide.
Robin Welch was one of the new generation of potters
who studied at the Penzance School of Art.
As a promising 15 year old Robin's pottery breakfast
set was chosen to be given to Prince Charles to celebrate the school's
100th anniversary. "That's my claim to fame... I wonder if he's still
got it," says Robin.
During weekends and holidays Robin worked part time at
the Leach Pottery, learning the trade first-hand.
Today Robin's work is in the Victoria and Albert Museum collections and
in galleries worldwide, so art experts may be glad to hear that Robin's
mum never threw anything away.
|Back to the
classroom - modern art students look for inspiration from past masters
Pointing to one of his early creations Robin says, "That
was made at Penzance School of Art.....that thing covered in dust... most
horrible of all. It might be worth something one day!," he quips.
After 150 years the Penzance School of Art can look back
on an illustrious history.
Not only did it help to shape Britain's art scene, but
it has encouraged students with a passion for painting to express their
Colin Scott, a teacher at the college says, "I've
taught people who've been excellent, some mediocre and some who should
never have heard the word paintbrush... but they've all got something
out of it."
The Penzance Art School has helped Cornwall to make its artistic mark
- not a bad achievement for a place at the end of England, many miles
from the cultural capitals of London and Paris.