Charity helps Cornwall acquire painting by Important St Ives artist

  • 19 August 2008

A significant oil painting of Penzance Harbour has been acquired by Penlee House Gallery and Museum in Penzance, with the help of a £19,500 grant from The Art Fund, the UK's leading independent art charity. The grant brings the total amount of money that The Art Fund has given to Penlee House, since the charity was founded in 1903, to nearly £197,000.

Penzance Harbour was painted by Bryan Pearce, one of the country’s foremost 20th Century naïve painters, who was born in 1929 in St Ives and attended the St Ives School of Painting from 1953 to 1957.

Pearce suffered from phenylketonuria, a condition which affects the normal development of the brain. As a result, he worked slowly but consistently producing around 12 paintings a year. One of the special qualities of Pearce’s paintings is his almost obsessive recording of a scene – although he would simplify views he did not invent anything, so each detail records exactly what he had seen.

Penzance Harbour is of particular interest for Penlee House as it depicts the town’s harbour as it was in 1963. The oil painting is Pearce’s largest ever work and was exhibited extensively as a key example of his painting practice.

David Barrie, Director of The Art Fund, said: “I am delighted that The Art Fund has enabled Penlee House to acquire this exceptionally large and impressive painting of the harbour at Penzance. Bryan Pearce was one of the leading naïve artists of the 20th Century and a major figure in the Cornish arts world.”

Alison Bevan, Director of Penlee House Gallery and Museum, said: “Not only is this an important artwork in its own right, but it is also an excellent acquisition for us as a narrative work showing the workings of Penzance Harbour in the 1960s. The work will go on semi-permanent display in our Social History gallery next year.”

Over the past 40 years Bryan Pearce has had work exhibited throughout the UK, including a retrospective exhibition at Tate St Ives last year. This sadly proved to be posthumous, as Pearce died, unexpectedly, shortly before the exhibition opened. His work is now featured in numerous public collections throughout the UK including the Tate Gallery, the Arts Council Collection, the Contemporary Arts Society and Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge.

Penzance Harbour was acquired for over £45,000 with further funding from the V&A / MLA Purchase Grant Fund, and the Friends of Penlee House.

Notes to editors:
1. The Art Fund is the UK’s leading independent art charity. It offers grants to help UK museums and galleries enrich their collections; campaigns on behalf of museums and their visitors; and promotes the enjoyment of art.
2. It is entirely funded from public donations and has 80,000 members. Since 1903 the charity has helped museums and galleries all over the UK secure 860,000 works of art for their collections.
3. Recent achievements include: helping secure Anthony d’Offay’s collection, ARTIST ROOMS, for Tate and National Galleries of Scotland in February 2008 with a grant of £1million; putting together a unique funding package to ensure Dumfries House in Ayrshire and its contents were secured intact for the nation in July 2007; and running the ‘Buy a Brushstroke’ public appeal which raised over £550,000 to keep Turner’s Blue Rigi watercolour in the UK.
4. For more information contact the Press Office on 020 7225 4888 or visit