Stanhope FORBES

Stanhope Alexander FORBES RA

Born in Dublin (18  November 1857), the son of  a railway manager and a French mother (Juliette Forbes, neé de Guise) who was a driving influence in his life, his interest in art began on family holiday in Ardennes as a child. His father was transferred to London, and Stanny was sent to Dulwich College.

He later studied at Lambeth School of Art and RA Schools, where he staged his first exhibition in 1878. He spent two years studying in Paris from 1880, with his friend (from Dulwich) Henry LA THANGUE, and also in Brittany.  Moving to Newlyn in 1884, he painted his famous Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach (Plymouth City Collection) and exhibited it at the RA the following spring. Also that year he exhibited two paintings at Manchester’s Royal Institution (Second Autumn Exhibition, 1884), virtually putting a seal upon his future: At Newlyn, Cornwall and A Cornish Fisher Boy.

In 1886 he was one of the founding members of the NEAC, and in Cornwall had quietly but effectively assumed the mantle of lead promoter of a self-styled colony, league or ‘school’ of artists. His sale of The Health of the Bride to Henry Tate (Tate Gallery Collection) enabled his marriage to the artist Elizabeth Adela ARMSTRONG in 1889. The birth of their son Alexander (called Alec), and the commissioning of their impressive arts & craft-styled home at Higher Faughan, in addition to their busy and productive output of paintings, is best read in their biographies.

Portraits of Stanhope, as drawn and painted by Elizabeth, are several and listed in Cook et al. A long-term portraiture project being carried out by the National Portrait Gallery will include their recent acquisition of A Portrait of Stanhope (reading, c1889). Ten years later, with the establishment of the Passmore Edwards Art Gallery in Newlyn (NAG, 1895) in between and all the efforts this required, the couple opened their Newlyn School of Painting in 1899, combining a new economic force - art and related tourism - within an area of declining mining, fishing and farming fortunes.

In 1910, the year of his election to the RA, a photo-plate of Snared (b&w) was included in the Studio-Talk section of The Studio to honour  the RA-Elect.  In 1915, following the death of Elizabeth in 1912, he married Maudie PALMER, a former pupil of the school and close friend of the family. In August 1916, his son Alec died in the front line (Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry) in France.

Work was the cure, and though critics comment that his later paintings are rather unoriginal, it is equally true that different styles and movements were having their day and his world was gone. In 1924 he designed a poster for the LMS Railway ‘project’.  The ‘Round the Studios’ reporter (The Artist, 1932) commented that Forbes was ‘still enthusiastic about out-of-doors painting, to which he had religiously adhered since 1882 when he joined his friends Henry LA THANGUE and Arthur HACKER in France and found that painting en plein air was the only way “to depict nature as she is”.'

Stanhope Forbes, the 'Father of the Newlyn School', died in Newlyn on 2 March 1947, age 89 (GRO).

In the year 2000 'history was made' when Stanhope's superb painting The Seine Boat (1904) was sold at Phillips Fine Art, New Bond Street for £1,211,5000, taking the Newlyn School 'into hitherto uncharted waters' and establishing a world record for the artist.



Painter in plein air style, primarily in oils, of rustic, landscape and genre scenes

works and access

Works include:

In 2005 at Penlee House, Penzance seven of his works were displayed in the portraiture exhibition: Self-Portrait (oil on canvas, NAG Collection), The Young Apprentice: Newlyn Copperworks (oil on canvas, c1908, Penlee Collectin), The Violinist (oil on canvas, Penlee Collection), Portrait of Elizabeth Forbes (oil on canvas, NAG Collection),  Mrs Forbes (the Artist’s Mother) (oil on canvas, 1910, Penlee Collection), The Blackberry Pickers (oil on canvas, Private Collection), and The Red River (oil on canvas, 1933, Private Collection)

The Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro have Against Regatta Day; The Lighting Up Time (study) and The Seine Boat (study)

Penlee House Museum, Penzance has recently (2006) acquired Up Paul Hill from a private collection. Abbey Slip (Private collection) is reprinted in Hardie (2009) and came into the fine art market at a W H Lane Auction sale in  2010, for only the second time in its history.

Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry Museum have his portrait of his son: Second Lieutenant Alec Forbes (d.1916) Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry (painted in 1916 and presented).

Access to work: Birmingham; Bradford; Pavilion, Brighton; Bristol City; Cardiff; Exeter; Hartlepool; Hull; Imperial War Museum, London; Ipswich; Walker, Liverpool; Manchester; Newport; Norwich; Oldham; Penlee House, Penzance; Plymouth (3); Preston; QMDH; RA; Science Museum, London; Sheffield; Tate; Trehayes Collection, Cornwall; V&A, London; Wolverhampton; Worcester; National Railway Museum, York; Auckland, New Zealand; Brisbane; Geelong; Sydney, Australia





Dowdeswell's (4)

Notts Castle (4)

Whitechapel (4)

Manchester 1894 (The Quarry Team sold for £1000)

Carnegie Institute, Pittsburg, Pa 1912

STISA & STISA Touring (1932)

NAG from Opening, Memorial Exhibition May 28-June 18 1949, NAG Loan 1958, Artists of the Newlyn School 1979

Forbes Studio Sale, Newlyn Orion Benefit 1981

Painting in Newlyn 1985

Looking West 1987

Painters from Cornwall 1992 RWE, Bristol

RA The Edwardians and After 1988; Now and Then 1996

Penlee House, Penzance Faces of Cornwall Exhibition (Portraiture) 2005






NAG 1895-1947 (Founding Chairman and Trustee)

NEAC 1888

ARA 1892; RA 1910; Senior RA 1933

STISA 1928-1947


misc further info

The Forbes Reading Room on art subjects and its books and files collected for the WCAA, is located at Trevelyan House, Chapel Street, Penzance TR18 4AW (Telephone 01736 366597). It is named in honour of Elizabeth FORBES and Stanhope FORBES and their 'school' of friends and followers.


Personal bibliography

Birch (1906, reprinted 2005) Stanhope A Forbes, ARA, and Elizabeth Stanhope Forbes, ARWS

‘The Forbes Scrapbook’, left unfinished by Forbes and containing primarily short notices and reviews of exhibitions in various venues country-wide. Also includes his handwritten sales record.

Dixon (1892) ‘Stanhope A Forbes, ARA’ Magazine of Art  (pp 181-4)

Dolman (1901) ‘Illustrated Interviews: LXXVI, Mr Stanhope A Forbes, ARA’ Strand Magazine 22 Nov (pp 483-94)

Fox (1993) Stanhope Forbes and the Newlyn School

Art of 1900 series The Studio Vol XX:27, Ill Attelage Basque

Garstin ‘The Work of Stanhope A Forbes, ARA’ Studio 23 (Jul 1901 pp 81-8: 7 ills including EAF’s portrait of Stanhope reading)

Green (2002) 'A Study of Students of the Stanhope Forbes School of Painting, 1899-1941' Posing the Model  (Repr in Hardie 2009 ‘Pupils of the Artists’ Schools’)

Hamerton (June 1894) ‘The Lighthouse, painted by SAF, ARA’ Scribner’s Magazine 15 (pp688-91)

Hind (1911) ‘Stanhope A Forbes RA’ Art Journal, Christmas number (The article contains 50 reprints of paintings by Forbes and a bibliography of Forbes’ pictures exhibited at the Royal Academy to 1907)

Meynell (Mar 1892) ‘Mr Stanhope A Forbes, ARA’ Art Journal (pp 65-9)

Mitford (1909) Sketches of English Life and Character (Illustrated by SAF in full colour)


Cook, Hardie & Payne (2000) Singing from the Walls, Life & Works of EA Forbes (illus)

Cross (1994) The Shining Sands (ill A Street in Brittany, 1881, pp50-1, 54 studies and coloured plate for Fish Sale; entry for DNB);

Hardie (1995) 100 Years in Newlyn: Diary of a Gallery (illus); (2009) Artists in Newlyn and West Cornwall (illus)

Hoyle, H (March 2013 Women Artists in Cornwall 'Summer in February - Art in Lamorna 1910-1914'

Messums Exh Cat (Autumn 2010): High Tide (4 illus)

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

RWE (1992) Artists from Cornwall, 'Artist Profiles: Historical', pp 33-7

Stevens (1988) The Edwardians and After, The RA 1900-1950 (illus)

Tovey (2000) GF Bradshaw & STISA (Appendix 3: Principal Members of STISA 1927-1960);(2008) Pioneers of St Ives Art at Home & Abroad; (2009) St Ives: Social History (illus); (2010) Sea Change

Tovey (2022) Lamorna - An Artistic, Social and Literary History - Volumes I & II, Wilson Books