Why is Art in Cornwall So Prolific?

September 19, 2017Cornwall, Holidays in Cornwall, News

A few years ago we were fortunate to have the artist Tim Shaw stay here at Trevigue Farmhouse. Tim is the artist who created perhaps one of the most famous modern works of art in Cornwall – the naked statue entitled ‘The Drummer’ on Truro’s Lemon Quay. The landmark piece of Cornish art (which contains Cornish tin and copper to represent Cornwall’s steely determination) was officially unveiled on Saturday 25th June 2011 by Queen drummer Roger Taylor. Inspiration for the piece came from memories of Mr Shaw’s arrival in Cornwall 30 years ago, describing it as a place “where the drum beats differently”.

Tim said, “Many people who visit Cornwall or choose to live here often come out with the same response that it’s a place that has an element of timelessness and magic about it, and that the landscape itself feels very ancient.” We couldn’t agree more that Cornwall’s drum beats differently and that our county dances to its own rhythm. That, coupled with the dramatic scenery we are blessed with here in the Duchy, is perhaps makes art in Cornwall so prolific.

art in cornwall- drummer in truro

The Drummer by Tim Shaw

Artists have flocked to Cornwall since the early 19th century, drawn by the rugged and romantic topography and the unique quality of the light. It was a visit by J M W Turner – the iconic painter who specialised in light – that first put Cornwall on the artistic and touristic map. His 1811 armchair travel guide, Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England, suggested that Cornwall was Britain’s equivalent of the Mediterranean, with its wonderful light, tranquil setting and intense colours. His watercolour, oil and pencil sketches turned Newlyn, St Ives and Penzance into painting Meccas which are still highly celebrated among artists and art lovers today. The dramatic and breath-taking cliffs above Strangles beach famously provided inspiration for the poet Thomas Hardy, but which places provide inspiration for art in Cornwall today?

Best Places for Art in Cornwall

St Ives Artists

From J M W Turner to Barbara Hepworth, the seaside town of St Ives has long been a magnet for artists, thanks to its renowned end-of-the-world light, stunning coastline and mild climate allowing plenty of time outside to soak in the landscape.  After WW II, this tiny fishing village was transformed into a vibrant, influential art colony and fast became the epicentre of the British Modernist movement. The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden is where one of the greatest sculptors of the 20th Century lived and worked. The Bernard Leach Pottery & Museum celebrates ceramic art in Cornwall, especially studio pottery and the influence of Bernard Leach upon the art world. Tate St Ives is the legacy this small town made on the art world; one of only four Tate Galleries in the whole of the UK, featuring a year-round programme of contemporary exhibitions and permanent works. If you are a love of art and want to discover the beauty of art in Cornwall, St Ives really is the place to start.

St Ives Tate Gallery- Art in Cornwall

St Ives Tate Art Gallery

Padstow Art Galleries

Although perhaps best known for its gastronomy, the small harbour town of Padstow has had a definite art uprising over the past few years with several galleries springing up and independent creators all jostling for space amongst the busy restaurants in Padstow. The Drang Gallery in Padstow has a varied rotation of original works by artists from traditional, modern and contemporary backgrounds and has developed a reputation for showing cutting edge, bold and dynamic art. This Padstow gallery is an independent space for fine arts, with original and collectable material by a range of international, national and local artists. Jo Downs is one of the world’s most respected fused glass designers and has had a gallery selling her beautiful glass art in Padstow for many years. The family-friendly space boasts an impressive range of bowls and panels and is a ‘must-visit’ for many art lovers visiting Padstow.

Padstow Jo Downs Gallery

Jo Downs Glass Gallery in Padstow

Buying Art in Cornwall

Cornish art galleries are not the only places where you can buy art in Cornwall. Far from it! Many hotels, restaurants and unusual places like clifftop pop-up ice cream shacks host exhibitions and sell artwork all year around. The Create Gallery, for example shows works from the likes of contemporary British artist Yvonne Coomber, whilst events like the Cornwall Open Studios invites artists, craftsmen and designers to open their studios and workshops to the public. This year Open Studios took place 27th May – 4th June but the dates for next year’s event are yet to be announced. There is also a great little gallery in nearby Bude called Seventh Wave who showcase the cream of Cornish artists.

Yvonne COomber art in Cornwall

Artwork by Yvonne Coomber

 The Moss Maiden and Her Giant at Heligan

The Mud Maid, Grey Lady and The Giant’s Head are iconic Cornish sculptures which lie in the woodland hugging the earth just waiting to be discovered. The sculptures reside in the Lost Gardens of Heligan, near Mevagissey and were created by artists Sue Hill and her brother Pete Hill. These unique and intriguing Cornish works of art seem to emerge silently from the beautiful natural landscape of Heligan, bringing the sheltered woodland path to life. Regardless of the sculptures therein, The Lost Gardens of Heligan are a good example of art in Cornwall themselves- such are their beauty! Sue and Pete Hill have created other moss maidens for The Eden Project in Cornwall and the 2006 Chelsea Flower show and other earthwork installations.

Mud Maiden Sculpture Heligan

Mud Maiden Sculpture at Heligan

Artists in Cornwall

Outside of London, Cornwall has the largest concentration of artists and creatives in the UK. Cornwall is such a beautifully diverse county which is why it attracts so many artists and creatives. The bohemian ethos and ‘work/life balance’ found here in Cornwall is very alluring to those who seek a slower pace of life and the time to grow, enrich and be inspired. John Dyer is an artist in Cornwall whose work explores bright colours, sunshine and fun. His work is quirky and alluring with all the Cornish artists’ favourites such as lighthouses and cottages, fishing boats and floats, but also featuring a side of Cornwall which you perhaps don’t typically consider, such as bright coloured smocks, cactus plants on walls, and banana plants in the park. He says, “When the sun comes out in Cornwall, the landscape fills with colour, the light pours over the vegetation filling each leaf with radiant colours and cool waters into Mediterranean delights. I love living in Cornwall, and I love painting”.

John Dyer Artwork in Cornwall

Artwork by John Dyer

Come and dip your toe in the artsy Cornish way of life by staying at Trevigue –  get in touch to find out more and book your long-awaited rejuvenating break in Cornwall. We can’t wait to welcome you…

(Photo Credits: Toby Ray, Tate St Ives, Mevagissey Ferries, John Dyer Art, Yvonne Coomber)