Porthleven is a fishing village on Mount’s Bay near the most southerly point of Cornwall, the Lizard. The view in Ginner’s painting is of the inner harbour, looking toward the sheds of a timber yard. Ginner painted in Porthleven in 1921 and 1922. His sister, Ruby Ginner Dyer, lived at Boscastle on the north coast of Cornwall, but it is not known whether Ginner was staying with friends in Porthleven. He often worked in the West Country, and had first painted there while staying with his friend and patron, Harold Bertram Harrison, at Applehayes in Clayhidon in the Blackdown Hills in Somerset in August 1912. In September 1924 he stayed with the painter Robert Bevan at his cottage near Honiton in Devon.
The painting is a study in complex perspective, with few edges at right angles. The terms in which he thought of such design is indicated in an essay on Bevan that he wrote in 1925:
The great expanses of open country are deeply and vividly felt; the collection of farm buildings grouped compactly into a wonderful design; atmospheric luminosity conveyed without the messy blurring of one colour tone into another, which is the recourse of the inefficient and unskilful.1
Ginner used the top central section of this view for an independent drawing in 1923, Porthleven Harbour.2 The detail appears almost exactly the same, and both drawing and painting were evidently taken from the same squared drawing. There are minor changes, for instance in the number of posts supporting the boathouse roof. Both painting and drawing include tiny figures on the street in the background, but in different places.
This was the first of Ginner’s paintings acquired by the Tate Gallery. It was advertised in the Goupil Gallery catalogue for £45, one of the larger prices, but in the event sold to Lord Beaverbrook for less than half this sum. In the early 1920s Ginner enjoyed some commercial success, for instance selling well for the Group X exhibition of 1920.3 His notebooks record that he earned a little over £300 from painting sales in 1922, a good deal more than other years when he earned between £100 and £200.4
Tate Archive TGA 9210/2/5. This is a fair copy, typed, of Ginner’s two drafts, which are also in the Tate Archive and differ from the text quoted (TGA 9210/2/7).
Ink and watercolour, 202 x 305 mm; reproduced in Charles Ginner, exhibition catalogue, Piccadilly Gallery, London 1969 (22); recorded in Ginner’s second notebook, Tate Archive TGA 9319/2, p.98.
Evening News, 17 March 1920.
Tate Archive TGA 9319.
Tate Archive TGA 9319/2, p.71.