Fishing off Pennance Point oil on canvas 32 x 51cm (12 5/8 x 20 1/16in).
This is a rare work by Tuke and was one of his first paintings completed when he returned to Falmouth in 1885. He had lived there as a child in the 1860s before being sent to board at a Quaker School in Western-Super-Mare. It is a significant work as it captures his style at the dawn of its development and marks the beginning of 45 years of painting in Falmouth.
Tuke had first returned to Cornwall to live and work in Newlyn in 1883 along with his fellow painters, Thomas Cooper Gotch, Fred Millard and Albert Chevallier Tayler, who had all been fellow students at the Slade School of Art in London, and at Laurens Atelier in Paris. Along with Stanhope Forbes and others, this group established themselves as realistic painters of life in Newlyn and became known as the Newlyn School.
The present work, although depicting Falmouth, owes its style to Newlyn realism. Several of Tuke's early plein air paintings in Falmouth include grey skies, dark seas and muted colours, such as A Morning Gossip R58 (Falmouth Art Gallery). These were regular features of early Newlyn school paintings.
The model is probably Walter Shilling, Tuke's first model, who was brought from London and had modelled at the Slade. He is wearing a white sailor's costume that he also wears as one of the figures in Two Falmouth Fisher Boys 1885 (Private collection, see illustration).
This painting seems to pre-empt and could be seen as a study for it, as it shows a boy fishing off the rocks at Pennance point, Falmouth, with St. Anthony's lighthouse roughly sketched in the distance. Sailing ships are coming in to the harbour and there is a red handkerchief on the rocks, all of which also appear in the Two Falmouth Fisher boys.
In the present work, the boy appears to be quite small in relation to the sea, which dominates the canvas with the realistic portrayal of white breakers rolling in to the cove.
We are grateful to Catherine Wallace, author of Catching the Light. The Art and Life of Henry Scott Tuke for her assistance in cataloguing this lot.