St Ives Cornwall Wallis Perspective

Art for self expression

Art for self-expression. Painting for its company, for something to do when alone or with others. Creating something from nothing for pure self-actualisation. St Ives Cornwall Wallis Perspective

To achieve these things, it does not matter whether the painter is talented or not; skilled with the brush, colour and line or simply daubing for the fun of it. It is the personal fulfilment that matters. To be able to stand back from a work, smile and say, ‘I did that’.

Alfred Wallis White Sailing Ship 1932-4

The avant-garde art scene in the 1920s and 30s, was struggling for new uniqueness following the strides made in earlier decades. Modern Art and Modernism it could be argued had reached its peak with the Impressionists, Post Impressionists and through to Picasso, the German Expressionists, Abstract and Fauvist movements.

Alfred Wallis Schooner and Lighthouse 1925-8

In the UK, the avant-garde was represented by artists such as Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Christopher Wood, and the sculptor Barbara Hepworth. Abstract plains of flat 2D geometrics (except for Hepworth’s 3D sculptures of course albeit still geometric and abstract), limited palette colourings, stillness and non-figurative. It must be said, mundane, energy-less stuff compared to previous avant-garde movements.

St Ives Cornwall Wallis Perspective
Alfred Wallis Two-Masted Ship in Full Sail. 1925-8

In the late 1920s the Nicholsons and Wood were in St Ives Cornwall where they met Alfred Wallis.

The impact was immediate. The transformation of the art world’s catalogue or oeuvre was spectacular.

Alfred Wallis Mount’s Bay and Five Ships 1928
Alfred Wallis. The Blue Ship. 1928



Here was an ancient widowed mariner filling in his time, simply expressing his experiences and environment, using basic paints, brushes and supports e.g. cardboard, old bits of wood and packing, without any recourse whatsoever to any academic or commercial expectations as to how a painting should be.

St Ives Cornwall Wallis Perspective
Alfred Wallis. The Hold House port meor square island port meor beach. 1932

No avant-gardism, no likeness catching portraits, no traditionally rendered land or sea scapes, no accurate still life, no techniques such as colour theories, perspective, foreshortening or formal composition.

Alfred Wallis. St Ives Harbour and Godrevy Lighthouse. 1932-4

This is what art should be all about. Personal fulfilment, vision and satisfaction with even the naivest of results being perfectly acceptable. Miles away from the strictures of art academia.St Ives Cornwall Wallis Perspective

St Ives Cornwall Wallis Perspective
Alfred Wallis. Penzance Harbour, Newlyn Harbour, Monsall Island, The Mount, Porthleven and Mullivenew Cutter from Penzance. 1932on nr Lizard, The one Entren the harbour is a revenew cutter from Penzance. 1932

This is what our London artists recognised in Wallis and it was owing to their eulogising Wallis’s refreshing ‘primitivism’ that the ancient mariner unintentionally caused a blip in the art world.

Figurative, realism, self-expressionism, primitivism with a dash of naivety. Brutally honest.

St Ives Cornwall Wallis Perspective
Alfred Wallis. The Wreck of the Alba. 1938-40


A word on perspective: note the flatness of Wallis’s images; the ignoring of the respective sizes of the objects displayed according to their relative distances; of taking no account of the fading and changing of colours from fore to background. In other words, the absence of linear (vanishing points) and aerial perspectives (colour and hue receding into the distance).

St Ives Cornwall Wallis Perspective