Robert Morton NANCE

Robert Morton NANCE
aka Morton Nance

Nance was born in Cardiff, though both of his parents were Cornish, and he enjoyed holidays with his grandparents in Cornwall from an early age. His brothers were Ernest M (b 1868) and Alwyn (b1870). The family moved to Penarth in 1878 and he developed an interest in the ships both in the docks there and at St Ives. A fine modeller of ships in wood, as well as an accomplished illustrator, producing pencil drawings and oil paintings. A poet and writer, especially of subjects concerning the Cornish language. He began his training at the Cardiff School of Art and in 1893 he enrolled at the Herkomer School of Art at Bushey. He married fellow student Beatrice Michell in 1895, but Bushey rules meant they both had to leave.

He returned to Penarth with his wife and young baby and, on the recommendation of Herkomer, he set up a painting school for a short time. In 1898 he had a poem and illustrations printed in the Cornish Magazine and illustrations reproduced in The Studio. In 1902 his wife died and distraught with grief he decided to immerse himself in further study in Paris for a time.

His titles at this time were Across the Western Ocean (1903), and On the Wings of the Wind (1904). By 1905 he was exhibiting studies of old battleships, some of which were used for decorative screens later exhibited in Italy. In 1906 he married Annie Maud Cawker [See Annie Maud NANCE], a good friend of his first wife and fellow student at Bushey. He was one of the founder members of STISA, but rarely exhibited, and a member of the Arts Club. An acknowledged authority on the Cornish language, he was a member of the Gorseth, becoming Grand Bard of Cornwall in 1934, a position he held until his death. Nance wrote Cledry (1956) and Plays, in addition to an English Cornish Dictionary and a quantity of pamphlets on the Cornish language. A portrait of the artist by Norman GARSTIN hangs in the St Ives Museum


Modeller, illustrator, painter, poet and writer

works and access

Likenesses of the Artist: A portrait of the artist by Leonard FULLER hangs in the St Ives Museum

Works include: Across the Western Ocean (1903); On the Wings of the Wind (1904); The Merry Ballad of the Cornish Pasty (1898; poem and illustrations in Cornish Magazine); 'Leaves from the Sketch Book of...' six full page illustrations in 1898 The Studio series); Ship model drawings (The Studio 1903); illustrations for three books for schools: Britain's sea History, The Romance of the Merchant Venturers and Voyages (1905) in collaboration with E E Speight; Sailing Ship Models (pub 1924, reprinted 1949) ; over 200 drawings for Sir A Moore Last Days of Mast and Sail (1925, reprinted 1970); drawings for Leslie Old Sea Wings Ways and Words in the Days of Oak and Hemp (reprint 1930)

Access to Work: Bushey, Herts; National Maritime Museum, London; Science Museum, London; 

In Cornwall: St Ives Museum; RCM, Truro: On the Wings of the Wind (oil on canvas)

Nance also wrote Cledry (1956); plays; An English-Cornish Dictionary as well as a number of pamphlets on the Cornish Language. 


RA (3); New Gallery 1903, 1904, 1905; STISA 1932 Touring Show; NAG July-September 1928 (Woodwork, as NANCE R T Morton)


STISA 1927-32 (Founder member); STIAC (President 1932); Gorseth Kernow (Grand Bard 1934 )

misc further info



Hardie (2009) Artists/ Newlyn & West Cornwall pp247-8 lg bibl

NAG Exhibition Programme of Pictures & Crafts, July-September 1928

Public Catalogue Foundation (2007) Cornwall & Isles of Scilly: Oil Paintings in Public Ownership

Tovey (2003) Creating a Splash

Tovey (2009) St Ives/Social History

Tovey (2010) Sea Change