Thursday, March 27, 2008

Seaside Art Colonies - in the UK and USA

I've always been intrigued by art colonies and have tried to visit a few over the years - most of which have seemed to be beside the sea!

To date my list includes: Newlyn, Lamorna, St Ives, Walberswick, Kirkcudbright, Chelsea, Monterey, Carmel, Gloucester and Cape Ann, - plus others whose names escape me - although I suspect they're probably places like Prout's Neck which are associated with only one artist!

I'd like to know more about them - and have started to try and find out a bit. I started with the wikipedia article about art colonies but found it rather odd. I think it's talking more about planned artist communities rather than those which are places where artists choose to congregate on a more informal basis. Scope for improvement there maybe?

My aim is to try and find useful links to the various ones around the world - and was rather hoping people reading this blog might be able to suggest some.

Seaside art colonies in the UK
A major feature of art colonies is just how many of them are associated with the sea. Three years ago there was an exhibition about the ones in the UK called Painting at the Edge: Britain's Coastal Art Colonies (1880–1930) at Penlee House Museum in Penzance (well worth a visit if you ever get to Penzance).
Organised by Penlee House and the University of Northumbria, this major survey exhibition put the Newlyn and Lamorna artists' work in context with that of their near-contemporaries in other British sea-side art colonies in St. Ives, Walberswick (Suffolk), Staithes (Yorkshire), Cullercoats (Northumbria), Kirkcudbright (Dumfries & Galloway) and Cockburnspath (Scottish Border). The cross-over between the colonies is fascinating, and many names appeared in more than one place. The exhibition included works by Newlyn painters Frank Bramley, Walter Langley (who also painted at Walberswick), Stanhope and Elizabeth Forbes and Fred Hall, and Lamorna group artists Lamorna Birch, A. J. Munnings, Harold and Laura Knight (who also worked at Staithes) and Charles Naper. The show included works by Mark Senior, Charles Mackie, Isa Jobling, Philip Wilson Steer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, George Clausen and George Henry, among others, loaned from public and private collections throughout the UK.
Penlee House Museum, Penzance
So that means a list of seaside art colonies (and artists) in the UK might look like this:
The Beach at Walberswick c.1889
Phillip Wilson Steer Oil painting on wood, support: 603 x 761 x 15 mm
  • Suffolk - Walberswick (Walter Osborne, Philip Wilson Steer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and George Clausen)
  • Yorkshire - Staithes (Mark Senior, Charles Mackie, Laura and Harold Knight and Isa Jobling)
  • Northumbria - Cullercoats (where Winslow Homer made his home for a while in the 1880s)
  • Borders - Cockburnspath
  • Dunfries and Galloway - Kirkcudbright
Kirkcudbright has had a long association with the Glasgow art movement, which started when a colony of artists, including the Glasgow Boys and the famed Scottish Colourists, such as Samuel Peploe and F. C. B. Cadell, based themselves in the area over a 30-year period from 1880 to 1910.
Many of them moved to the town from Glasgow, including E A Hornel, George Henry, and Jessie M King, and their presence led to Kirkcudbright becoming known as "the artists’ town", although this moniker may have originated more from tourist board publicity [4]rather than local usage.
The whodunit Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L. Sayers involves the artistic community of Kirkcudbright. [5]
I'm much more familiar with the UK than elsewhere for obvious reasons - so finding out about places elsewhere will need some help!

For example, in the United States, I think the list of seaside art colonies include the following? Can people confirm - and/or tell me what's missed out?

Rockport Motif #2 9" x 12", coloured pencil on Saunders Waterford HP
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
The first Gloucester painter of note was native-born Fitz Henry Lane, whose home still exists on the waterfront. The premier collection of his works is in the Cape Ann Historical Museum, which holds 40 of his paintings and 100 of his drawings. Other painters subsequently attracted to Gloucester include William Morris Hunt, Winslow Homer, Childe Hassam, John Twachtman, Frederick Mulhaupt, Frank Duveneck, Cecilia Beaux, Jane Peterson, Gordon Grant, Emile Gruppe, Stuart Davis, Mark Rothko, Milton Avery, Barnett Newman, William Meyerowitz, Theresa Bernstein, and Marsden Hartley and artists from the Ashcan School such as Edward Hopper, John Sloan, Robert Henri, William Glackens, and Maurice Prendergast.
Monterey has a noteworthy history as a center for California painters in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Such painters as Arthur Frank Mathews, Armin Hansen, Xavier Martinez, Rowena Meeks Abdy and Percy Gray lived or visited to pursue painting in the style of either En plein air or Tonalism.

I'm toying with the idea of running a series of occasional posts on the various art colonies. I just find it fascinating that you get places where artists congregate and I wonder at times whether the artists or the place is the magnet. Probably both I guess! :)


  1. Jan Heigh had a problem leaving me a comment - here it is

    Dear Katherine
    Places that immediately come to mind as artist "magnets" in the US are: Sedona AZ, Santa Fe and Taos NM.

    With best wishes,
    Jan Heigh

    Not seaside art colonies for sure - but very welcome as suggestions for the longer list of artist colomies in the USA

  2. May I suggest a definition (you alluded to it) between the artist community and the arts colony?

    An artist's community would be like the south part of Whidbey island, near Seattle, where my new gallery representation is. It is the largest artist's community in Washington state (I think), where a number of artists have separate residences, but have an informal sense of community and a definite self-identity. Buck's County, PA ?
    Long Island, NY ? The Hudson River Valley, NY ? Isn't there an area in Vermont, and also an island off of Georgia ?

    And, IMO, a colony may be like the center that Tracy did her residency in Vermont. Narrow mission, and temporary residencies are part of their definition.

  3. Well my reading of it is that the commercial ventures actually 'colonised' the term. Lots of the original art colonies are exactly what you are describing as art communities.

    In some ways art communities is the better term except of course they're local communities first and then places where lots of artists live

    Maybe I should call it something like

    "placeswherelotsofartistslive - and - someartistscomeandtsayforawhile" !!!

  4. Hey Katherine,

    I have been enjoying your posts for several months now.

    You might consider adding Jerome, Arizona to your list of artist colonies to explore. It is not seaside - but does offer a stunning hill top panorama and a community less affected by the commercialism of the more affluent destinations on your list.

  5. This is weird! OK - Jerome is another one to add to the list of places I have visited! I remember the truly stunning views.

    See Sunday 23rd July: Big clouds, big holes and big rocks

  6. Hi Katherine,
    I too am fascinated by the history of artists congregating together. In Australia there are a couple of places that immediately come to mind such as Heide which was established by John and Sunday Reed in 1934 and drew together such artists as Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, John Perceval, Joy Hester and Charles Blackman. There is a wonderful book by Janine Burke called 'The Heart Garden' which traces the glorious history of Heide.

    There was also Open Country and The Grange, both places rich in history of Australian artists living and working together - you can see some of the history on this site under 'family heritage'

    I would also like to draw your attention to our beautiful coastal art trail. While not a colony as such, it was a place where many artists came together to paint

    I wish we still had the coming together of artists that we read about in history. It seems the internet has assumed much of the function now of establishing artist communities.

  7. Hi Triecia! How lovely to hear from you again.

    That Bayside Trail is STUNNING! Plus I want to know how on earth vthey worked the magic with that website - that's amazing.

    I love Australian painting - it always somehow manages to look 'fresh' to me.

  8. Hi Katherine - I agree with you about Australian painting... here in South Africa I can think of three artist gathering places: Onrus River near Hermanus on the incredibly beautiful southern Cape coast - Clarens, a small town in the mountains of the eastern Free State, and the Natal Midlands, a picturesque area also in between mountains and rivers. None of them seem to have their own websites, but these are some to refer to:
    It would be a dream to be able to live and work in or near one of these communities, once our coffers are full enough...

  9. Thanks Cathy - I've not come across any of those before.

    I've heard lots about how beautiful South Africa is - plus it has the huge advantage for UK visitors of being a southern hemisphere destination with no jet lag!

  10. Perhaps two and a bit years late for leaving notes on this blog, but I live in Kirkcudbright which is twinned with the town of Pont Aven in France, which you might want to add to your list of artist colonies - Gauguin lived there and it's a place very similar to Kirkcudbright. We've got a sculpture symposium going just now and were meant to have a chap come over from there for it but he broke his arm the week before.

  11. Just visited Caramet sur Mer today which would fit into your collection. It's on the western coast of Brittany. There are quite a number of artists there, many with their own galleries. I assume the rents are cheap. Good subject matter in the surrounding area and artists ina. Variety of styles and disciplines.


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