Borlase SMART

Robert Borlase SMART RBA, ROI, RBC

Born at Kingsbridge, Devon, his studies were with F J Snell (1896), then at Plymouth College of Art (1897), Royal College of Art (1899) and under Julius OLSSON in St Ives (1913). The artist returned to St Ives after serving in the army in WWI and his drawings of the Western Front were purchased by the Imperial War Museum. He married Irene Godson in 1917, settled in St Ives (1919), and worked from The Cabin, 1 Porthmeor Studios and the Ocean Wave Studio (1929). In 1935 he was one of the St Ives group commissioned to do a poster, based on an aerial view, of St Ives for tourism purposes. He also designed another for the Southern Railway, and many others.

Though now he is mainly regarded as a coastal artist, his industrial and architectural drawings after WWI are among his most accomplished work (Wormleighton). The couple moved to Salcombe, Devon, in 1926, but returned to St Ives the following year. In 1929 he published a book on the technique of painting seascapes. In 1934-36, Peter LANYON was his pupil.

Works displayed at Newlyn included two studies of St Ives, The Steel Works, Lincoln; The Nitrate Works, Plymouth; The Old 'Implacable' in Dry Dock (1929) and Land's End (1937). During WWII he designed propaganda posters for the Royal Navy.

In the RCM, Truro are two of his coastal landscapes, Morning Light, St Ives (1922), and Cornish Cliffs, Zennor (1923).

Borlase Smart was instrumental in his final year of life in securing a permanent home for the St Ives Society of Arts in the Mariner's Church, St Ives. In 1949, a group of St Ives' artists banded together to become members of the Penwith Society, as a tribute to him. These included Herbert Read, Barbara HEPWORTH, Peter LANYON, Shearer ARMSTRONG, G R DOWNING, Bernard LEACH, Denis MITCHELL, Ben NICHOLSON, Misome PEILE, and Philip KEALEY. In that final year, his portrait was painted by the sculptor Allan G WYON.

In West Cornwall today, as administered by the Tate Galleries, are the artists' studios in both St Ives and Newlyn, carrying the joint name of the Borlase Smart-John WELLS Trust. These have been renovated to a high standard, and are made available to artists upon application.


Coastal and marine painter, etcher, poster designer and topographical artist

works and access

Works include: Low tide in Harbour, St Ives (1912) ; Fine morning at Clodgy, St Ives; Boats Out  (1912); Moonlight on Hayle Bar (1912); Munitions, 1918 (c1919); The Chemical Works, Plymouth (1920); Cattewater from Turncahapel Pier (1920); Near La Toquet, 1916 (1920); Evening at Newlyn (1920); Wheal Grenville Mine (1920); Winter in Cornwall (1920); Old houses, Chy-an-Chy, St Ives (1920); Clear after Rain (1920); Sunset, St Ives, start of the herring season (1920); A shell-swept road, North of Arras (1920); The Steel Works, Lincoln (1921); The Nitrate Works, Plymouth (1921); Cornish Cliff, Zennor (1923); Sunset looking toward Carn Gulva (1923); Early Spring near Zennor (1923); Atlantic Cliffs (1923); Sunset Glow on Cornish Cliffs (1923); The Moon reflects her glory across St. Eia's Bay; Clear after Rain; SunsetMoonlight on the Cornish Riviera; Springtime on Cornish Cliffs; Morning Light, St Ives; The Old 'Implacable' in Dry Dock (1929) and Land's End (1937).

Access: St Ives Bay from Clodgy (1935) at St Ives Library; Clipper, St Ives Bay in St Ives Town Council Col; Morning Light St Ives (1922) and Cornish Cliffs, Zennor (1923) at RCM, Truro.

Sign painted on copper for St Cuthbert's Church, Millwall; Bristol; Imperial War Museum; Leamington; National Maritime Museum, London; Plymouth; QMDH; Sunderland; Swindon; Bombay


RA May 1919, March 1920, March 1923; Royal society of British Artists Exhibition 1920; Royal West of England Society October 1919; Harris & Sons Galleries, Plymouth Summer 1912, June 1920; RCPS September 1920; NAG Revival Exhibition September 1920, Summer 1921, December 1924, Spring 1925, Summer 1929, July 1932; St Ives May 1919, July 1919, Show Day March 1920; works for London Galleries March 1920; Own gallery March 1924; Porthmeor Gallery Summer 1928; Royal West of England Academy, Bristol September 1914; PARIS SALON June 1923; ROI (57); RBA (37) Spring 1920;  Walker Gallery, Liverpool October 1911;  Brighton Corporation Galleries 1911; London May 1923;  Oldham Municipal Gallery Spring Exhibition 1924; City of Hull Art Gallery Spring Exhibition March 1924; Plymouth Society of Artists 1945


1949: Memorial Exhibition, Tribute by the Penwith Society

1950: Memorial Exhibition, Plymouth, Devon

1975: Exhibition of war drawings, and related work, Plymouth

1981: Retrospective, Penwith Gallery, St. Ives, Sept-Oct

1987: Looking West, Paintings inspired by Cornwall, NAG & RCA: Morning Light, St Ives (1922)

1989: A Century of Art in Cornwall 1889-1989, CCC centenary, Truro, Part 1 (selected)

1992: Artists from Cornwall, RWE Bristol (selected)

2018: Borlase Smart - A Passion for the Sea, Penlee House Gallery, Penzance (15 Sept-17 Nov)



RBA 1919; STIAC 1920-21 (Hon Secretary); ROI 1922; STISA 1928-47, 1933-47 (Secretary), 1947 (President); Gorseth Kernow; NSA 1929ff; Plymouth Society of Artists (1945)

misc further info

 'The Technique of Seascape Painting' was published in 1934.  St Ives Town 
Council have a seascape painting 'Clear After Rain.'  St Ives Library have a 
seascape 'St Ives Bay from Clodgy.'  He was made a Bard of Gorsedd of 
Cornwall on 28th August 1933 taking the Bardic name, Ton Mor-Bras (Ocean 
Wave).  [Information provided by Marion Whybrow in correspondence, 2012].



Hardie (1995) 100 Years/Diary

Hardie (2009) Artists/Newlyn & West Cornwall (p270 col pl: Morning Light, St Ives)

Public Catalogue Foundation (PCF) Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly: Oil Paintings in Public Ownership

RWE (1992) Painters from Cornwall, Bristol: Sansom, p36; 

Smart, Martha (1981) Exh Cat: Borlase Smart 1881-1947 The Man and His Work, Penwith Gallery, St Ives

Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery (1945) Exh Cat: Second Exhibition of Works by members of the Plymouth Society of Artists

Tate (1985) St Ives 1939-64: 25 Years of Painting, Sculpture & Pottery (biog notes p141with photo in plein air)

Tovey (2000) George Fagan Bradshaw - Submariner & Marine Artist, etc. (STISA Principal members list p228); 

Tovey (2003) Creating a Splash (Illus)

Tovey (2009) St Ives/Social History (lg ref & illus)

Tovey (2010) Sea Change: chp 'Borlase Smart's War'

Whybrow (2011-12) Work in progress: 'Borlase Smart - artist - Man of Vision' (in press); 

Whybrow (2013) St Ives: The Story of Porthmeor Studios;