Philip Wilson Steer

The Beach at Walberswick


Not on display

Philip Wilson Steer 1860–1942
Oil paint on wood
Support: 603 × 761 × 15 mm
frame: 807 × 968 × 87 mm
Purchased 1942

Display caption

Steer made many visits to Walberswick in Suffolk, where he had friends. He completed a number of paintings of the beach there that are among the most authentically Impressionist works produced in Britain. They are all fluidly painted and concentrate upon effects of atmosphere and light but, unlike Monet, Steer was just as interested in the figures as their setting. When paintings like this were exhibited for the first time in Britain the 1880s and 1890s they were seen as being uncompromisingly avant-garde. One critic in 1892 even described such works at the New English Art Club exhibition as 'evil'.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry


Inscr. ‘P. W. Steer 91’ and, on back, ‘P. W. Steer. pinx.t
Canvas, 23 3/4×30 (60·5×76).
Purchased from George E. Healing through the Leicester Galleries (Knapping Fund) 1942.
Coll: George Healing by 1929.
Exh: Tate Gallery, April–July 1929 (111), as ‘Three Figures on a Pier’ (incorrectly dated 1891); National Gallery, June–August 1943 (70).
Lit: MacColl, 1945, p.191; John Rothenstein, Modern English Painters: Sickert to Smith, 1952, p.63.
Repr: Ironside, 1943, pl.22.

Steer, who had friends at Walberswick, Suffolk, stayed there in 1884 on his return from Paris, and again possibly in the summer of 1885–6; his next visits were made in 1888–9, and apparently in 1890 also, although this is not recorded in MacColl's list (op. cit., p.186); according to this list Steer was at Swanage. A picture entitled ‘The Beach, Walberswick’ was shown at the London Impressionists exhibition, held at the Goupil Gallery, December 1889 (33). Although N05351 bears the date 1891, it seems possible that this date may have been added later, since several other paintings have been post-dated by the artist (e.g. N03668, which is dated 1893 but was shown in the N.E.A.C., November 1892). Either this work or N05766 may be identical with the 1889 Goupil exhibition picture.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II


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