Think of art between 1880 and 1920 and thoughts jump to the Impressionist movement – Parisian life, sunsets over London and the French countryside. Fishermen in Cornwall doesn’t normally feature on the list.
However, a group of artists travelled to the continent, were inspired by what they learnt there and then settled in St Ives and Newlyn to capture the working people of these towns. This exhibition focuses on these works, bringing to attention many talented artists who are often overlooked.
Fishermen have been captured perfectly in two paintings by Charles Napier Hemy – one shows an oyster dredger sitting quietly on the water, the reflection of the boat and its sail on the gently rippling sea feels as if it could come to life at any moment. Contrasting with this is an impressive large scale work depicting the hauling in of the catch at sundown, where a thronging mass of fish takes centre stage and dissolves into a blur.
We were also impressed by the romantic fishing boat at sundown by Franz Müller-Gossen; it felt as emotionally charged as an early Turner.
Moving upstairs the quality does falter a little with a section of portraits and representations of other industries in Cornwall such as mining and farming. The exception being two paintings of blacksmiths where the glow of the forge is expertly reflected in the faces of onlookers.
While enjoying the artwork, visitors will notice the impressive architecture of the building and it’s well worth spending some time exploring the elaborate interior of this Victorian mansion. Coupled with some impressive paintings, this exhibition is a hidden gem.
Amongst Heroes: The artist in working Cornwall is on display at Two Temple Place, WC2R 3BD until 14 April. Admission is free.