Stanhope Alexander Forbes, RA (British, 1857-1947) Out into the deep dark
Lot 119AR
Stanhope Alexander Forbes, RA (British, 1857-1947) Out into the dark and silence
Sold for £181,250 (US$ 284,489) inc. premium

Lot Details
Stanhope Alexander Forbes, RA (British, 1857-1947) Out into the deep dark Stanhope Alexander Forbes, RA (British, 1857-1947) Out into the deep dark Stanhope Alexander Forbes, RA (British, 1857-1947) Out into the deep dark Stanhope Alexander Forbes, RA (British, 1857-1947) Out into the deep dark
Stanhope Alexander Forbes, RA (British, 1857-1947)
Out into the dark and silence
signed and dated 'Stanhope A Forbes./1900' (lower right), indistinctly inscribed on remnants of a label attached to the reverse
oil on canvas
79.5 x 97cm (31 5/16 x 38 3/16in).

Footnotes

  • EXHIBITED:
    London, Thomas Agnew & Sons., 1900, English Art, 1900: a collection of pictures painted specially for Messrs. Thos. Agnew & Sons by Distinguished Artists of the English School
    Purchased for £240.00 in 1901, possibly from Agnew's in Manchester
    Thence by descent to the present owner

    1900 is an important year when assessing the career of Stanhope Forbes. Over the previous two decades, Forbes had enjoyed considerable success with his own brand of realism, based on rigorous draughtsmanship, a subtle understanding of tonal values, and a sense of good composition. A founder member of the New English Art club in 1886, a regular contributor to the Royal Academy, and the unofficial father of the Newlyn school -a position cemented by his establishment of the Newlyn School of Painting in 1899, with himself as 'Professor'- Forbes was, by 1900, an established part of the British artistic landscape.

    Forbes was a leading figure amongst the first wave of artists who migrated to Newlyn in the 1880s, looking for an alternative to the studio-bound existence of the city. At the turn of the century, arguably many of his most famous works were behind him, but Forbes was at the height of his powers, painting works that would secure his reputation not only as the leading exponent of the Newlyn school he helped to found but also a great artist in his own right. As the century progressed, while Forbes stayed faithful to his original aims, the gradual loosening of his style shows sympathy with the style of many of the second wave of artists in the pre-war period.

    The type of realism Forbes developed tended to depict the nobler side of his subjects' lives, seen to great effect in works such as The Seine Boat (RA 1904, no.167). The harder side of Newlyn life is alluded to, but it is never directly painted. While artists such as Walter Langley and Frank Bramley chose to depict the cruel realities of life in works such as Bramley's A Hopeless Dawn (RA 1888, Tate Gallery) and Langley's Never morning wore to evening, but some heart did break (RA, 1894, Birmingham Museums), Forbes was perhaps the most commercially enlightened of the group, and as a result enjoyed the most success both at the Royal Academy and elsewhere.

    One of the enduring qualities of Forbes' work throughout his seventy year career is his faithful recording of Cornwall and Cornish life. Over the course of his career he depicted many strands of life in Newlyn and its surroundings. His thriving portrait practice also allowed him to develop his considerable ability to depict individual features and characteristics. It is these characters going about their everyday lives that Forbes invites us to see from new angles and in endless scenarios, from the stuffy enclosed space of a blacksmith's forge in Forging the anchor (RA 1892, no.287, Ipswich Museum) to being on board a fisherman's boat in calm waters, as in the present lot.

    1900 was a strong year for the Royal Academy, heralding a new century of artistic endeavour. Royal Academy Pictures notes that 'there is great work...that will live in the history of the British school, and mark this last year of the century as one of rare achievement...the most hopeful suggestion of the developments that may be expected during the new century'.1 While Forbes exhibited four works at the RA that year, including his celebrated The Drinking Place (now in Gallery Oldham) -prominently reproduced on the first page of the Royal Academy Pictures -the present lot was sent to Agnew's, to an exhibition of 'English Art, 1900: a collection of pictures painted specially for Messrs. Thos. Agnew & Sons by Distinguished Artists of the English School', an indication that Forbes was very much a part of the artistic establishment of the time.

    The early 1900s were an immensely prolific period for Forbes, and a good number of his most successful compositions were harbour scenes painted in Newlyn or nearby Mousehole, such as Goodbye-Off to Skibbereen (RA 1901, no.495), The Seine Boat and Newlyn (1909, see illustration). The present lot is a typical example of this period, where Forbes moves away from crowded compositions, showing large groups of figures, such as his masterpiece, A fish sale on a Cornish beach (RA 1885, no.1093, Plymouth Art Gallery), The Health of the Bride (RA 1889, no.655, Tate Gallery) and By order of the court (RA 1890, no.1146, Walker Art Gallery) and concentrates on smaller groups of figures, set larger within the composition, with more of an emphasis on the facial characteristics of the sitters.

    In Out into the dark and silence, a fisherman and a young lad are depicted setting out for the fishing grounds. The younger man is setting a long line as the boat glides away from the harbour wall. The lights of the cottages above Newlyn harbour in the background remind the viewer of the sanctuary of home and loved ones who would be waiting for their safe return. The charged atmosphere of the painting is emphasized in the title. The boy's features are highlighted in the glow from the lantern which would have been lit as a safety precaution as the boat set out for the pilchard grounds. Forbes was particularly interested in the play of lamplight and used it in several compositions in the late 1880s and early 1900s, such as The letter (RA 1898, no.365, Plymouth Art Gallery), Round the camp fire (RA 1903, no.128, Laing Art Gallery) and most spectacularly in Lighting up time (RA 1902, no.40, Penlee Museum) where the artist bathes the face of the young man with the warm glow from the lantern.

    By 1900 many of the original influx of artists had left Newlyn. Painters such as Chevallier Tayler had found it hard to make a commercial success whilst staying true to the plein air ideals of the 1880s, and in the words of his fellow artist Norman Garstin 'he has folded up his sketching umbrella and silently stolen up to Kensington'. The new generation of artists mainly had a bolder, lighter approach and this is mirrored in many of Forbes' paintings of the early 20th century, which move away from the tight square brushwork and subdued palette that had defined the early years of the Newlyn school. However, Forbes' interest in the subtleties of different light effects is not matched by any other Newlyn artist. It is explored in his interiors, his inland scenes, but most effectively in his harbour scenes such as the present lot, where the failing evening light reflected in the water, the sharper light of the lantern and the far off windows combine to make an atmospheric and complex scene.

    1 Royal Academy Pictures, London, 1900, p.ii
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