Poems, plays & fairytales ~ a summer exhibition

I have been inspired... I went to see an exhibition today that has left me with a real sense of both frustration & awe. In equal measures I am inspired to make my art better, & yet I also want to throw my work away & snap my brushes for good.
Luckily my muse is clapping her hands in joy & asking to go back again next weekend... so I don't think I'll be quitting any time soon. :)
Usually fine art exhibitions are predominantly oil paintings, but I was happy to see that this one was at least 50% watercolours! And what watercolours they were.... *sighs* not to mention the immense size of many of them, I could have spent hours peering at the brush strokes behind the glass & trying to imagine the steps taken to achieve this magic :) Well, I did spend hours... but I would have taken even longer had my Husband not been flitting from room to room & coming back to fetch me to see HIS favourites. lol

*Read below for a description of the exhibition & a few images that I could find online - although they don't even come close to capturing the true beauty of these originals in the flesh!*

Penlee House Museum & Gallery has been created in a stunning Victorian building that was once a house set in beautiful gardens. It now includes a beautiful gallery (upstairs & downstairs), a cafe in the Orangery, & magical gardens. Penlee House is the only Cornish venue specialising in the Newlyn School and early St Ives artists (c.1880 - 1940). 

Poems, Plays & Fairytales

Literary-inspired works by Newlyn artists

15 June - 7 September 2013

This summer’s exhibition at Penlee House Gallery and Museum in Penzance offers not just a feast for the eyes, but also a chance to indulge the imagination, as it presents a sumptuous array of literary-inspired works by Newlyn artists.
Although the Newlyn School are best known for their realistic depictions of the local community, artists such as Walter Langley and Norman Garstin often chose poetic titles to give added poignancy to their work.  Some of the sources were well-known tracts, such as Charles Kingsley’s ‘The Three Fishers’ which gives the title to Langley’s heart-rending ‘But men must work and women must weep’, lent to the exhibition by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, or the Shakespearean quotation (which is in both ‘King Lear’ and ‘Twelfth Night’) Garstin famously chose for his iconic ‘The Rain it Raineth Every Day’. 

As the twentieth century dawned, several of the artists moved away from realism, not only taking titles but their entire subjects from literature.  Inspired by sources such as Robert Browning, John Keats and Robert Herrick, artists including Elizabeth Forbes, Thomas Cooper Gotch, Henry Meynell Rheam and William Wainwright produced opulent illustrative paintings in Mediaevalist style. 

Not content with just illustrating text, Elizabeth Forbes even wrote her own book ‘King Arthur’s Wood’, published in 1904 as one of the vanguard of collectors’ edition illustrated children’s books, pre-empting Arthur Rackham. Many of the privately owned original illustrations are included in the exhibition, so this is a rare chance to see them in the public domain, alongside copies of the book itself.

The costume and drama spilled from painting to life, with the artists holding pageants and performances, and dressing their models in costume without the pretext of a quotation to match.  Perhaps the most dramatic evocation of this is Thomas Cooper Gotch’s magnificent ‘Alleluia’, lent to the exhibition from Tate, London - a huge and spectacular painting depicting recognised local models.

With a number of works not seen at Penlee House before - and indeed some rarely if ever seen in public - alongside much-loved familiar favourites, ‘Poems, Plays and Fairytales’ offers a new view of art from Newlyn and promises to be a treat for all the family: don’t miss it! 


  1. Such stunning work! I'm down that way in the summer so I'm going to go and see these amazing works thanks so much for sharing! I have a painting of that blue dragon in an old sketchbook I did a few years ago, I love the face, the colours, shading and was quite pleased with my own rendition but WAY off the real thing by far!
    That last painting you show with the reflections and the red dress, I am in love with it!xx


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