Stanhope Alexander Forbes R.A.

Stanhope Alexander Forbes R.A., (18 November 1857, Dublin - March 2, 1947 Newlyn, Cornwall), was an artist and member of the influential Newlyn school of painters. Stanhope Forbes was born in Dublin, the son of a railway manager and his French wife. It was his French mother, Juliette (nee de Guise), who was the main influence in his life. He apparently wrote to her daily, even after his marriage to Elizabeth Armstrong. His love of painting began on a childhood holiday in the Ardennes.

He attended the Royal Academy Schools in London from 1876, and in 1880 went to study at Léon Bonnat’s studio in Paris. In 1881, Forbes went to live in Brittany with fellow artist La Thangue. This brought him into contact with the new ‘plein air’ school of painting, which was to influence his style fundamentally. "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 1884 he moved to Newlyn, Cornwall, to join the growing colony of artists. He then lived in Newlyn for the rest of his life. He married fellow Newlyn artist Elizabeth Armstrong in 1889.

He established his reputation with the acceptance by the Royal Academy of his Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach in 1885 , with its clarity of technique and social reality in comparison to works of that date (this painting is now in Plymouth City Art Gallery) and with the purchase of The Health of the Bride in 1889 by Henry Tate, now in the Tate Gallery, London. The £600 that tate paid for it enabled the couple to marry.

The number of artists in Newlyn started to decline, but Stanhope and his wife Elizabeth founded their School of Painting at Newlyn in 1899. This attracted a new generation of artists to the area, including Ernest Proctor and his future wife Doris ‘Dod’ Shaw.

He broke with the Royal Academy to help found the New English Art Club, which looked to latest trends in France, but was elected a Royal Academician in 1910.

Elizabeth died in 1912, and after her death he had many of her letters, sketches and pastels burnt. In 1915 he re-married to Maudie Palmer, a former pupil of the Newlyn school. His son Alec, joined the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry in 1915, was sent to the front line in August 1916, and died in action three weeks later.

The quality of Forbes work began to change. Later works tended to lack the depth and dynamism he had achieved earlier and the plein air movement was gradually died as the Newlyn painters embraced modernism and the St Ives school gained prominence. Well into the 1930s, he was still often to be seen painting ‘en plein air’, surrounded by curious local children.

Stanhope Forbes died in Newlyn on 2nd March 1947. However today Stanhope Forbes remains the most sought after of any artist of the Newlyn period.

Stanhope Forbes and the Newlyn School

Stanhope Alexander Forbes, Newlyn School Painter


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