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Stanhope Forbes

Glyn Macey begins a new six-part series in which he encourages you to paint in the style of a great artist, with a demonstration painting in acrylics to inspire you


At the turn of the 20th century British painting was dominated by one school of art, the members of which were working in a tiny fishing village as far from the arts capital of London as you could get. I am of course talking about the Newlyn School of Art. And at the head of the Newlyn School was the brilliantly gifted artist and teacher Stanhope Forbes. Irish born and artistically educated in Brittany, Forbes wasn’t the first artist to make Newlyn his home, but under his influence a whole raft of gifted painters followed him to the busy harbourside village. The narrow, curvy alleys and streets, their tiny fishermen’s cottages huddled on the hillside like a pack of badly stacked cards, gave Forbes the subject he was searching for: real life.

Inspired by the French Impressionists, this new group of British artists dedicated themselves to working en plein air. They found the light to be unlike anywhere else in the country and revelled in its clarity. But unlike the French Impressionists’ colour-filled canvases, the Newlyn artists used an altogether more natural palette. Umbers, olive greens, rich blues and ochres captured and portrayed their West Cornwall home as never before. Focusing their attention on real people, real homes and the real working environment, Stanhope Forbes and his fellow artists have given us an unrivalled glimpse of West Cornwall at the turn of the last century. Exploring Forbes’ paintings is like taking a time capsule to the evening harbourside, complete with oil lamps, rain-soaked cobbles and creaking fishing boats. We can smell the salt in the air, the tar, the rope and the rusted chains. We can hear the cry of the gulls and the lap of the tide as it rises and falls. And we can feel the seaweed-covered rocks and slimy timbers. Stanhope Forbes was able to capture in paint what Laurie Lee could capture with language, atmosphere and a sense of place like never before or since.

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About The Artist

Welcome to our summer issue in which our team of top professional artists and tutors offer a sparkling range of inspirational features to help you create your best work over the summer months. Capture the sparkle of silver light on water with Chris Rose, enliven your watercolours with moving figures with Jake Winkle, use contre-jour for dramatic effect with Jo Quigley, paint spring and summer trees in watercolour with Ian Sidaway, or a coastal scene in acrylics with Paul Talbot-Greaves. Julie Collins goes back to basics with a look at colour theory and pigments, Ann Witheridge suggests using an extended palette for portraits, Amanda Hyatt offers a variety of tricks to help you produce better watercolours and there is a host of exercises to try throughout the issue. All this and much more, plus don't forget to enter this month's summer sketching challenge set by Adebanji Alade on page 46, for a chance to win a £50 voucher to spend on art materials with GreatArt!