Inspirational People: Alfred Wallis

Wallis, Alfred; The Blue Ship; Tate;

One of my little goals in life is to inspire people to get creative. I know from my own experience that it is medicine for the soul. And you don’t need fancy materials or formal training. I previously wrote about Maud Lewis. She’s one of my heroines and a fine example of an untrained artist who has received worthy recognition. I also take inspiration from the Cornishman Alfred Wallis.

Wallis, Alfred; Against Longships fog; The Pier Arts Centre;

I love Alfred Wallis’ work that depicts beautiful places that are so familiar to me, Longships, St Ives and Mounts Bay. Wallis was a fisherman from St Ives who started to paint in his mid sixties, using what he had, paints and found materials around his home. I like to imagine that he would dig out a bit of old cardboard and household emulsion from his shed and see what he could do with. The colours are certainly reminiscent of the glum decorating style of a twenties or thirties home. Apparently when it bought paint it came from the chandlery. Evidence again that you don’t need hi-falluting stuff to make art.

Wallis, Alfred; Boats at Rest in Mount’s Bay; Tate;

Although his work got some attention in his lifetime, Wallis didn’t sell many of his paintings when he was alive. Sadly he died in poverty in the workhouse in Penzance. He is buried in the graveyard of St Ives under a memorial with tiles by the potter Bernard Leach. At least he was recognised after his death. He’s probably sitting on his cloud as pleased as punch!

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