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Cornwall Marine Directory

Cornwall and The Arts

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It has been said that Cornwall has more artists per square mile in Britain than any other county and, judging by the array of galleries in the county - and the sheer magnificence of the country and sea views - this is probably not far from the truth.

Whichever of the county's marine hotspots you are visiting, you will find no shortage of galleries where you can see displays and have the chance to purchase original artwork inspired by and created in Cornwall.

Attracted to the far west by the stunning scenery and unique quality of light, artists began to migrate to Cornwall in the late nineteenth century when railway lines built to service the tin mining industry turned their hand to bringing in tourists.

From one of the most respected art colleges outside of London at Falmouth to the world-class quality of the Tate St Ives, Cornwall has a rich history in visual art that puts it high on the list of hotspots for artists to visit.

St Ives on the north coast polarised the art community in Cornwall for most of the 20th Century. The rare light and azure water made the small fishing community a Mecca for groundbreaking artists who set up in sail lofts alongside the fishermen who used the lofts to store and repair their gear and deal with their catch.

Today few of the St Ives traditional sail lofts are still in use by fishermen, most are now used as artist's studios. In the century or more that St Ives has been captivating artists, it has amassed a heady list of impressive names - among early visitors were JMW Turner, Whistler and the young Sickert. In 1928, on a visit to St Ives, abstract painter Ben Nicholson encountered the work of retired mariner Alfred Wallis whose untutored paintings of Cornish town and seascapes had a significant influence on the direction of his work.

As World War II broke out, Nicholson settled in St Ives with Barbara Hepworth. They were joined by the Russian born American constructivist sculptor Naum Gabo - establishing West Cornwall as an outpost for abstract art. Today the Tate St Ives - one of the most important buildings in the Cornish art world of today, occupies a majestic position overlooking Porthmeor Beach near the sail loft studios used by many artists whose works are exhibited.

And even today it is impossible to ignore the wealth of independent artists practising in Cornwall. Any village you visit seems to have its own artistic community and any road you drive along has a sign pointing to another gallery. The county is a hotbed of people recording the landscape and people on canvas and other media.

And for those who want to paint, this county has several hundred miles of coastline, much of it rugged, some sheltered, and there are many places to be alone with a fabulous vista. If you have access to the water, there are picturesque seascapes waiting to be captured. Companies such as Classic Sailing (see our search box at the side of the page) offer breaks aboard old-style wooden vessels with a view to getting you and your sketchpad to some of the best views to help improve your art.

Whether you are an established artist or someone looking for inspiration, Cornwall could not be a better choice as your muse. As well as the natural landscape, it is home to a wealth established gardens and some of the National Trust's most prized properties. A visit here will prove to you why these landscapes and seascapes are the stuff that has provided artistic inspiration of centuries.
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