Stanhope Alexander Forbes, British

Artist's Biography

Stanhope Forbes is regarded as the founder and leader of the Newlyn School. He settled in Newlyn in 1884 and stayed for the rest of his life. Norman Garstin, in an article on Stanhope Forbes, wrote that ‘no one has done so much to hold the little community of Newlyn together as Mr. Stanhope Forbes’.

Forbes was born in Dublin. His father was the manager of the Midland Great Western Railway of Ireland; his mother was French and had much influence over his life. Stanhope was sent to Dulwich College and in 1876 to the Royal Academy Schools. In 1880 he visited Paris and attended Bonnat’s studio and, in 1881, he visited Brittany where he was to paint extensively over the next few years in the ‘plein air’ style. Forbes was greatly influenced by the work of the French artist, Bastien Lepage, and his earlier works display the solid, tonal values of pre-impressionist painting.

In January 1884, Forbes took the train from London to Falmouth in search of fresh inspiration and gradually found his way to Newlyn. He was by no means the first artist to settle there; Langley, Gotch and Todd were already well established. It was, however, largely the repeated success of Forbes’ work at the Royal Academy in the later 1880s, and, in particular his most successful painting “Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach” (1885), that established the reputation of the Newlyn School outside Cornwall.

In 1899, he founded a painting school in Newlyn with Elizabeth Forbes, his wife, ‘for the student who wishes to learn how seriously to study painting and drawing according to the recent development in English art’. The school’s formation marked the beginning of a new era in the artistic life of Newlyn while its students formed the nucleus of the second generation of Newlyn painters.

Works can be found at The Tate, London; Penlee House Gallery and Museum, Penzance and at the Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro.