Samuel John Lamorna Birch "Under the cliffs" oil on canvas
Lot 21
Samuel John Lamorna Birch R.A. (1869-1955) Under the Cliffs 50.5 x 61 cm. (19 7/8 x 24 in.)
Sold for £9,000 (US$ 14,706) inc. premium

Lot Details
Samuel John Lamorna Birch R.A. (1869-1955)
Under the Cliffs
signed (lower right)
oil on canvas
50.5 x 61 cm. (19 7/8 x 24 in.)

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner's family

    Exhibited:
    London, Royal Academy of Arts, Summer Exhibition, 1919, no.156

    The present lot depicts Lamorna Birch's house Flagstaff Cottage, his wife Houghton and one of his daughters.

    In 1902 shortly after his marriage to Houghton Emily Vivian, Birch moved into Flagstaff Cottage, a former harbour manager’s house set on the cliff overlooking Lamorna Cove. He had befriended the previous tenants, writer Charles Marriott and family, and was eager to take over the tenancy once the Marriotts decided to relocate to St Ives.

    Once the couple had moved in, they worked quickly in making the cottage their own. Austin Wormleighton explains, ‘Birch converted the stable into a studio, lining the walls and floor with timber, installing a coke stove and a roof light, and painting the woodwork blue […] The newly-papered walls throughout the cottage were painted a biscuit-brown colour, which Birch considered a satisfactory background for paintings. Upstairs were three bedrooms […] The window of the main bedroom offered spectacular and elevated views of the cliffs and cove and Birch now began his lifelong habit of leaving a watercolour paintbox on the window ledge.’ (Austin Wormleighton, A Painter Laureate – Lamorna Birch and his circle, Sansom and Company, Bristol, 1995, p.79)

    Being a highly sociable family the Birchs home became an open house to pupils and artists alike. They kept an unusual visitor’s book, in which all guests had to draw a pig whilst keeping their eyes closed. Amongst the many visitors to Flagstaff Cottage, were Alfred Munnings (see lot 10), Harold and Laura Knight (see lot 17), Stanhope and Elizabeth Forbes, Augustus and Dorelia John (see lot 23), Henry Scott Tuke and Harold and Gertrude Harvey. They would often gather at the cottage on a Sunday and if the weather was fine they would move out to the cottage garden to take in the breathtaking views over Lamorna cove. Local fisherman, John Jeffrey lived in a hut in the garden, and when Birch was away from home exhibiting or teaching, Jeffrey would help Houghton by digging vegetables from the kitchen garden and supplying her with fish. ‘If no-one was at home he left crabs and lobsters in the front kitchen and Houghton would return to find them, scuttling across the stone floor.’ (Op.Cit. p.85)

    In 1923 Birch was finally in the financial situation to purchase Flagstaff Cottage. After his death in 1955, his daughter, Mornie Kerr stayed on at Flagstaff and founded the Larmorna Kerr Group of Painters who studied under her at the cottage.
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