Friday, 23 November 2012

Lamorna & Sennen


If Laura Knight thought Staithes in Yorkshire was 'life in the raw', when she moved to Lamorna, she must have thought that was la dolce vita. She would not have been the first, nor would she be the last. Not that life was so cushy for Stanley Gardiner when he first went to live in the lush Cornish valley. He had to live in an old Army hut beside the Wink public house, making frames for other artists.

He had started out a house-decorator in Reading, but had first taken evening classes then won a scholarship to study fine art at the university with our own Allen Seaby. But by the time this portrait by WC Weatherby was painted in 1945, he and his makeshift easel were both firmly planted by the sea.


Nearer to Land's End, there is another cove at Sennen, but less the sub-tropical feel that has captivated so many at Lamorna. I don't know exactly when John Platt found himself there, but I've always found this bird's-eye view one of his most appealing landscapes. The details of the fisherman preparing to take their boats and out and raising the sails as they leave the small harbour are unobtrusively fitted into the complex rhythms set up by all those large shapes along the beach. The would-be engineer and architect are all there is this print to bring the whole thing together. It's the subtle dynamics of a work like this that makes Claude Flight look like he's trying too hard.


More occasional, I suppose, is Frank Morley Fletcher's similar view of the old derrick at Lamorna. Again, I have no idea when FMF was there, but this print wasn't published untill 1916. He was a habitue of art colonies - Etaples, Walberswick - and this view from the garden of Flagstaff Cottage shows him firmly in Lamorna Birch country because it became his house. He had taken it over from The Times art crtic, Charles Marriott, and I wonder whether it ws Marriot rather than Birch that Morley Fletcher had gone to visit.


Even more tantalising (and for more than one reason) is this view of Sennen by Daisy Boxsius that appears to show the viewpoint that John Platt made use of. Tantalising also because, by the look of this watercolour, she was a better painter than her husband, Sylvan. It's the only work by her I have ever been able to find and it's hard to judge from a reproduction, anyway. She had a better approach to the haphazardness of the boats than John Platt. In his hands, they become technical drawing; what Daisy Boxsius gives us are the rhythms of reality. Her husband was in the photo-lithography business at Bolt Court and presumably arranged to have her work reproduced in this way. She outlived him, and carried on exhibiting after the second war. The only record we have of their trips to the West Country in the 1930s are their pictures: Corfe, Shaldon in Devon, Looe, Marazion, Sennen, but not Lamorna so far.


Neither Lamorna nor Sennen, John Platt's Pilchard Boats must show Newlyn harbour, with the deep anchorage beyond the wall. (You can see a view from the other direction in Ethel Kirkpatrick's Boats at rest on the post about her watercolours). All of Platt's Cornwall prints date from 1921 and 1922 so he was presumably down there painting some time before then. (He was in Edinburgh by autumn, 1920).

Not obviously a Newlyn woodcut but probably one of the few we know that were actually made in Cornwall, this witty image by Cicely Jesse, showing that young artists studying down in Newlyn with Stanhope Forbes were nevertheless hip to the Vienna Secession. She made this while living at Myrtle Cottage above the harbour. It makes a change from the sea.


  1. Lovely. Brings back memories of our first stay in an old cottage in Cornwall near Lands End. It was November. Flowers still bloomed, but large field spiders intruded. Otherwise, delightful. Easy to understand why artists have always been drawn to it. Thank you for more information on artists in Cornwall. I want to go back.

    1. Funnily enough, the post went up because one of my readers was walking from Penzance to Lamorna that day and November wouldn't put me off either.

  2. A wonderful posting Charles, and goes some of the way to explore the attraction and appeal of Cornwall to artists. The J.E.P print is easily one of his best landscapes. It was certainly a sign that he was at his peak of expertise and skill. I don't quite know how he did it but the Cornwall prints he did, were absolutely his very best, and clearly symbolic of his love for the area. He also did the Trawler Builders, which is a marvel to behold. It is all skill, line and yet he manages to soften it with the water, harbor and light. At his best, he was better than most painters. I too have a soft spot for Cornwall, but alas, what was good enough for Knight, Hepworth, Kirkpatrick and others...wouldn't be for me. I love that you love the area and you get the interest it held for artists.

  3. We've just had a Knight exhibition in Nottingham that looked at her outdoor work, so that started me off again. But as you rightly say, it takes very little to revive memories of West Penwith for me.

    I suppose alot of artists like Platt and Boxsius partly went to work in Cornwall because they had friends there. It's so frustrating not to be able to find out more about their visits. It says it all, though, that Kirkpatrick made so many colour woodcuts with Cornish subjects, but none of Walberswick, even though she and Ida rented houses there.

  4. Daisy Boxsius was my Great Aunt. I have two watercolours of hers that hung on my bedroom wall as a child. A few years ago I decided to get them reframed. When we opened one of them a stunning coloured etching of Old Bruges by J.R.Hutchinson fell out of the back. Obviously, I had that framed as well.
    Does anyone know if there was a connection between Hutchinson and Daisy's husband Sylvan.

  5. Hi Sue,

    I'm fascinated to hear about the watercolours you have. I know that Sylvan Boxsius had a friend and colleague at Bolt Court called J Huskinson. I wonder if that was a mistake in the book because I have never been able to trace him.

    Having said that it may have been the framer who used the etching as a backing and may have nothing to do with Daisy and Sylvan.

    Did you also know that they lived in an Arts and Crafts flat at Fortis Green in London for quite a number of years?

    Do you remember Daisy or know anything about her? Anything you know about her would be of great interest. And what are the subjects of your two watercolours?

    It's one of the joys of the blog when people such as yourself who are related to the artists and/or own their work write in and tell us about them, so many thanks. If you would like a photo of your uncle before he married, just let me have your email address (write to and I will send it on to you.

  6. Daisy lived in a flat in Fortis Green until she died. I went there many times as a child. Her sister, my grandmother lived in the same block of flats as well. I have never heard it referred to as an "Arts and Crafts flat". Is there anything you can tell me about that? All I know is that it was built by the Collins family.

    I will take photos of the two paintings that I have and also the one by J.R. Hutchinson. (You can find other works of his on the web.) I will email them to you.

    I would love to see a picture of Sylvan as he died before I was born.
    There is a photo somewhere of Daisy taking a painting into the Royal
    Academy to be shown. Not sure who in the family has it though. It could be me but we have just moved house and everything is in boxes at present.

    As her Mother and Aunts aged, my Mother used to visit and shop for the four sisters. One day she arrived to see Daisy and found her tearing up many of her paintings as she said that nobody would be interested in them when she was gone. My Mother was horrified and managed to stop her and that was when I acquired a second painting of hers. There are a fair number of her paintings (and Slyvan's) scattered around our family. I also have a couple of her sketchbooks.
    Thank you for being interested in Daisy.

  7. There was another flat in Fortis Green that Daisy and Sylvan lived in before the war. That was the Arts and Crafts one! But I will be back to you later tonight.