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Alfred Wallis

Alfred Wallis: The Naïve Painter of the Cornish Coast

Alfred Wallis (1855-1942) was a British fisherman and self-taught artist known for his distinctive naïve style, primarily depicting seascapes and coastal scenes. Born in Devonport, Devon, Wallis began his maritime career at a young age, serving as a cabin boy and later as a fisherman. He eventually settled in St Ives, Cornwall, where he opened a marine stores shop in 1890. After the death of his wife in 1922, Wallis took up painting to cope with his loneliness.

Wallis's art is characterized by its simplicity and directness, often painted on scraps of cardboard using household paint. He drew heavily from his memories of life at sea, capturing the essence of the ships and coastal landscapes he knew so well. His lack of formal training resulted in a unique style that ignored conventional perspectives and proportions, giving his work a raw, expressive quality.

Wallis's work was discovered by prominent artists Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood in 1928, who were captivated by his unpretentious approach to painting. They introduced him to the broader art community, helping to establish his reputation. Despite this recognition, Wallis lived in poverty for much of his life, eventually dying in a workhouse in Madron near Penzance.

Today, Wallis is celebrated as a key figure in British naïve art. His works are held in major collections, including the Tate and Kettle's Yard in Cambridge, where they continue to inspire with their evocative portrayal of the sea and the simplicity of coastal life.

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