This exhibition, curated with art historian David Tovey, showcases the work of early visitors to St Ives from 1811 to 1888, particularly those who contributed to its establishment as an internationally-renowned artists’ colony. Following the trend in Parisian studios to sojourn in rural retreats such as Concarneau and Pont Aven, artists from all over Europe and North America sought remote, unspoilt destinations providing complementary space, light and subject for plein-air (in situ) painting.
It was against this backdrop that artists, many of them from abroad who had worked together previously in Brittany, came to St Ives creating an international colony with a cosmopolitan outlook. From the point of J.M.W. Turner’s arrival in 1811, the exhibition considers key figures in British marine and landscape painting, including Edward Cooke RA, James Clarke Hook RA, Henry Moore RA, and John Brett ARA, who depicted the natural and social drama of the town's Atlantic coastline.
Picturing the West also provides a rare opportunity to see Breton works by Marianne Stokes and Henry Harewood Robinson, alongside canvases by Scandinavian painters Anders Zorn and Helene Schjerfbeck; lesser known artists James Bingley and Frederick Mercer complement studies by James Whistler, Walter Sickert and Mortimer Menpes.
Drawing from national and international public and private collections, Dawn of a Colony is a collaborative project with Penlee House Gallery & Museum in Penzance. From 14 June to 13 September 2008, Penlee House hosts Dawn of a Colony: Lyrical Light, St Ives 1889–1914, also curated by David Tovey, which surveys the initial connections of the St Ives artists with the Newlyn School and the emergence of the colony in the two decades prior to the First World War as a world-renowned centre for both the practice and teaching of landscape and marine painting.