The Compton Verney Art Gallery in Warwickshire is home to one of the largest collections of folk art in the UK. Folk or Peoples Art being works produced by untrained artists and crafts people that covers a wide range of disciplines from painting to handicrafts and sculpture.
Compton Verney Art Gallery is highlighting its collection by exhibiting the artworks of naïve artist Alfred Wallis, alongside abstract paintings by Ben Nicholson. The works are drawn from the period when the two painters worked together in St Ives, Cornwall.
There is also a display that explores the craft of embroidery as commonly practiced by sailors.
Alfred Wallis worked all his life as a Cornish fisherman and upon retiring and the death of his wife in 1922, he filled his days with painting. A naive painter, his works are devoid of the concerns for perspective and scale and instead he focused on the subject matter that he felt to be of important. Most of his paintings were from memory, as he had spent most of his time sailing under canvas and by the time he started painting steamships were taking over the waves.
In 1928, artists Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood arrived in St Ives with the desire to establish a painting school in Cornwall and were delighted to discover Alfred Wallis working there. However, despite the support of Nicholson, Wallis’s work never took off during his lifetime and he died in poverty in 1942.
Nicholson in comparison was the son of the artist Sir William Nicholson, he was classically trained, studied at the Slade in London and married to the sculptor Barbara Hepworth. The two however worked together in Cornwall and the novice Wallis was to have a profound influence on Nicholson’s view of painting.
The show demonstrates the two artists complementary styles and covers their works between the periods 1928 – 1940 when the St Ives School was at its height. While Nicholson went on to travel around North America and various countries around the Mediterranean, Wallis on the other hand, happily spent the rest of his life in the picturesque Cornish fishing village.
The gallery is also showing a collection of traditionally embroidered pictures by sailors from the 19th century. These intricate pieces of folk craftwork show life onboard ship, the boats and detail the mariner’s travels.
Compton Verney Art Gallery is a Grade I listed, 18th century, Warwickshire country mansion that has been restored and converted into a wonderful gallery and exhibition space. The mansion house along with its renowned collection of Folk Art also has a number of Neapolitan pieces from 1600 to 1800, works by famed English portrait painter, Joshua Reynolds and some excellent North European paintings from the Medieval period.
The Alfred Wallis and Ben Nicholson exhibition, along with the Wool Work, sailor’s art show opened on the 26th March 2011 and will run all the way through to the 5th June 2011. The Compton Verney Art Gallery is situated just off the M40 near Stratford upon Avon and the village of Kineton.