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Lot 414: STANHOPE ALEXANDER FORBES, R.A. 1857-1947
November 25, 2004
London, United Kingdom
signed and inscribed l.r.: Stanhope A. Forbes./ study for "HOME ALONG"
oil on canvas
'Here he shows a sense more emancipated of the joy of his medium, and a delight in familiar things, seen not prosaically but transfigured by the alchemy of the sun-magician... in "Home Along" has he rendered the glamour of the last and rarest light of the day, when the glassy, responsive water gives back the gold of the sky; and the humble folk of every day walk with the last radiance of the fading light on their shoulders and their hair; and the commonplace is merged and lost in the solemn unity of the gathering light.' (Mrs Lionel Birch, Stanhope A. Forbes, A.R.A., and Elizabeth Stanhope Forbes, A.R.W.S., 1916, pg. 105)
This remarkable oil sketch was made in preparation for Forbes' Royal Academy exhibit of 1905 Home Along (Bristol City Art Gallery), a large and impressive painting depicting early evening on the old pier at Mousehole, where the locals take a break from their strenuous lives to reacquaint themselves with their sweethearts or a loyal sheepdog, or simply enjoy a good pipe-full of tobacco. The sketch relates to the figures of the three old fishermen in the left portion of the painting with the animated figure of the weary 'old sea dog' making his way homeward for the night. Another sketch of similar sizes is known of the young man and woman on the right (Bonhams, 15 June 2004, lot 9).
'His passionate love for the way of life, the people with their joys and sorrows, the events and tasks of their everyday lives, is expressed in all his best paintings... Forbes saw the way of life in Newlyn as something of lasting value in an increasingly troubled world.' (ibid. Fox, pg. 92) It is this glorification of age old tradition and the nobility of the ordinary man and woman living a hard and often dangerous life, which makes Forbes' work so powerful. The robust way he painted in his mature years, reflects the rigour of the people he depicted whilst his dramatic use of colour captures the beautiful effects of light in this part of the country.
In the early twentieth century Forbes held a central place in Newlyn as the most famous painter of Cornish life and as the Professor of the School of Painting in the town. His paintings were already finding their way into municipal art collections and he was well known from the London exhibitions. Forbes' students and visitors to Cornwall could often find the great painter standing in the cobbled streets with his easel and canvas set up in front of him, working on the oil sketches for his next projected paintings. He was not locked away in a studio working upon paintings which were undecipherable to those who lacked a classical education; he painted among the people and painted subjects which were at once engaging and understandable. 'He continued to paint scenes of village and country life in the early twentieth century and possibly, in sympathy with the artistic climate of the period as reflected in the paintings of the new generation, his muted tones gave way to a much greater emphasis on colour, while his square brushwork became increasingly looser.' (Caroline Fox, Stanhope Forbes and the Newlyn School, 1993, pg. 83) He began a series of paintings of small groups of people seen from close quarters in the harbour at Mousehole in the early 1900s, Home Along being one of the earliest and other examples being Evening in the Village of 1906, At the Moorings of 1907 (Ferens Art Gallery, Hull), The Old Pier Steps of 1911 and Fitting Out, Mousehole Harbour of 1919 (Bradford Art Galleries and Museum). In these paintings there is a greater sense of intimacy than had been found in Forbes' earlier work. It is clear that by this stage in the artist's life, he knew his subject so well and respected the Cornish people to such an extent, that he understood their lives and how to depict them with intelligence, warmth and honesty. 'His deep love for and commitment to the Cornish village of Newlyn and its people gave meaning and purpose to his life and work... Forbes was the artist par excellence of Newlyn. Though his contemporaries produced some superb individual works, to Forbes alone fell the major task of providing a wealth of good and varied paintings of every aspect of life in and around Newlyn.' (ibid. Fox, pp. 92-93)
Dimensions: 79 by 61 cm., 31 by 24 in.