Alfred Wallis 1855 - 1942

A self-taught artist who was born in Devonport, and who spent twenty-five years as a fisherman before he became a second-hand dealer and ice cream seller in St Ives between 1890 and 1912.

Following his wife’s death in 1922, Wallis took up painting, as he later told Jim Ede, “for company”. He was self-taught, and never had an art lesson. By 1928 his work attracted the attention of Christopher Wood and Ben Nicholson, who modified their approach to colour and composition in the spirit of his painting. His pictures of boats, harbours and seascapes are assured in their control of warm, earthy colours and cool, fresh greys and blues; he applied his paint with a lively feeling for texture to small pieces of material, often oddly shaped fragments of board and cardboard. He composed houses and shipping on these surfaces with an uninhibited disregard for conventional perspective. His paintings are an excellent example of naïve art; perspective is ignored and an object’s scale is often based on its relative importance in the scene, giving many of his paintings a map-like quality.

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