An exhibition first shown in the city in 1894 will be revisited at Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery this spring. Cornish Light brings together the very best of Cornish art with over 40 paintings, many of them from the original 1894 show.
In September 1894, Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery opened a ‘Special Exhibition of Pictures by Cornish Painters of Newlyn, St Ives, Falmouth etc.’ Leading Cornish art historian and curator David Tovey has called this ‘The Greatest exhibition of Cornish art … Ever!’
Consisting of over 200 paintings by 50 different artists, the 1894 exhibition gave a comprehensive overview of a new wave in British art, sweeping in from a remote, then little-known area of the country.
Artists working in the Cornish art colonies of Newlyn, St Ives and Falmouth in the 1880s and 1890s had generally travelled on the continent, studied in Paris and worked within artist colonies located by forest or sea. They had absorbed new ‘Impressionist’ ways of experiencing light, experimenting with brushstrokes, colour, form and level of finish. Many combined this with a social realist sensibility, taking harsh working life as their subject matter; others introduced elements of sentimentality or pathos as they sought a wider market for their work. The aim of the 1894 exhibition was to showcase the very best paintings that Cornish artists had produced in the preceding 10 years; a commitment to contemporary art that continues to inform the exhibitions and acquisitions programme at Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery to this day.
Deborah Dean, Visual Arts Collections and Exhibitions Manager said: “Cornish Light demonstrates the range of art being produced in Cornwall at the time, from evocative seascape to contemplative landscape, from melodramatic scenes to humorous images of fisher folk at work and at rest.“
Exhibits include: the Tate’s Hopeless Dawn by Frank Bramley, a picture that impressed one of Nottingham’s best-loved artists, Laura Knight, when she visited as a young student; Stanhope Forbes’ dynamic The Quarry Team, and S M Laurence’s huge, impressionist-influenced seascape The Setting Sun-Coast of Cornwall. These will be displayed alongside works by well-known artists such as Elizabeth Adela Forbes, Walter Langley, Adrian and Marianne Stokes and Henry Scott Tuke. The exhibition offers visitors the opportunity to rediscover talented artists such as Dorothy Webb Robinson, Fred Hall and Nottingham’s own John Arnesby Brown, the artist whose suggestion instigated the original 1894 show.
Councillor Dave Trimble says: “The original exhibition in 1894 demonstrated the ambitions of the newly-opened Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery to bring art of national and international importance to the people of Nottingham – an ambition that continues today. We’re delighted to welcome the highlights of the exhibition back to the Castle, thanks to the support of Tate, Penlee House and other public and private collections across the UK. It’s great to be re-visiting past successes as we embark on the next exciting phase of the Castle’s development.”
Alongside the Cornish Light exhibition will be outstanding contemporary British ceramicist ,Natasha Daintry’s Ocean, co-acquired for Nottingham’s collection in partnership with four museums in the North-West. Ocean is widely regarded as one of her finest works to date. This ambitious ceramic installation presents 1,000 slip-cast porcelain pots cleverly arranged to form an ‘ocean’ which explores Daintry’s fascination with nature, water, movement and colour theory, and our emotional responses to colour and form.
Natasha said of her work “Studying water has…encouraged me to cultivate my own tiny internal ocean, a kind of salty spirit-level, to help me find a position of equilibrium on life’s continuously shifting ground, minute by minute, second by second, pot by pot.”