Alfred Wallis’ (1855-1942) expressive drawings and paintings capture the immediacy of his direct experiences of the sea.
Wallis lived in Cornwall throughout his life, working on deep sea fishing boats and then as a marine scrap merchant. He turned to painting when he was in his seventies with no formal training, and used this creative outlet as a means to escape the isolation and loneliness that he felt following the passing of his wife. In his final year of his life, Wallis lived in a workhouse and here, with materials gifted to him by artist Ben Nicholson and art critic Adrian Stokes, he continued to recall and sketch his memories of the sea, shore and Cornish landscape.
Three sketchbooks made in his final year (1941-2), that are filled with drawings and paintings in varying styles, are the catalyst for this exhibition. Alfred Wallis Rediscovered will explore Wallis’ paintings from the Kettle’s Yard Collection, with particular attention to his later works and drawing practices.
Wallis’ close friendship with the creator of Kettle’s Yard, Jim Ede, who purchased large numbers of the artist’s paintings in the 1930s, is demonstrated through their lively letter correspondence, which will also be on display.
Ben Nicholson described Wallis’ work in 1942 as ‘an immensely real experience’. This exhibition will shine new light on this innovative artist whose contribution to the development of modern art in Britain deserves closer attention.