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Alfred Wallis, Three grey-sailed ships, n.d., 330 x 225 mm, courtesy of Kettle’s Yard, University of Cambridge

Alfred Wallis Rediscovered

24 October 2020 – 20 June 2021

This event has passed. Free

Alfred Wallis’ (1855-1942) expressive drawings and paintings capture the immediacy of his direct experiences of the sea. Wallis lived in Cornwall throughout his life, working on deep sea fishing boats and then as a marine scrap merchant. He turned to painting when he was in his seventies and with no formal training, and used this creative outlet as a means to escape the isolation and loneliness that he felt following the passing of his wife. In his final year of his life, Wallis lived in a workhouse and here, with materials gifted to him by artist Ben Nicholson and art critic Adrian Stokes, he continued to recall and sketch his memories of the sea, shore and Cornish landscape.

Three sketchbooks made in his final year (1941-2), that are filled with drawings and paintings in varying styles, were the catalyst for this exhibition. Alfred Wallis Rediscovered explored Wallis’ paintings from the Kettle’s Yard Collection, with particular attention to his later works and drawing practices. Wallis’ close friendship with the creator of Kettle’s Yard, Jim Ede, who purchased large numbers of the artist’s paintings in the 1930s, was demonstrated through their lively letter correspondence, which was on display. Ben Nicholson described Wallis’ work in 1942 as ‘an immensely real experience’. This exhibition shined new light on this innovative artist whose contribution to the development of modern art in Britain deserves closer attention.





We will come to relish the freshness of Wallis’s wonderful vision, tingling fresh as the smack of a salt sea wind on your face.

The Times

Read it here



The 60 or so paintings that usually remain in storage make a rare appearance, and with letters and sketchbooks, afford a view of Alfred Wallis not just as an inspiration, but as an artist in his own right.

I News

Read it here

Exhibition Films

Alfred Wallis Sketchbooks

Experience three sketchbooks made by Alfred Wallis in the final year of his life in this film. Watch the pages turn to reveal works by Wallis that are rarely seen by the public. These three sketchbooks were the catalyst for our exhibition ‘Alfred Wallis Rediscovered’.

In the sketchbooks you can see some of the artist’s favourite subjects including the Royal Albert Bridge in Devonport, St Ives Harbour and its lighthouse and three mastered tall ships and steamers with smoke billowing.

The sketchbooks were acquired by Kettle’s Yard and Tate in 2020 with funds provided by the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Tate Members and Friends of Kettle’s Yard, and with Art Fund support.

Alfred’s Adventure in the Children’s City: Cambridge Literary Festival

Watch the recording for this interactive children’s event with Cambridge Literary Festival. The event was first broadcast on 31 March 2021, and is now being shared as part of Cambridge City Council’s ChYpPS programme for children and young people.

Discover more

Alfred Wallis in the Kettle’s Yard Shop

Thank you

We are grateful to the following for their generous support:

The Mandarin Trust

Suling Chan Mead

John and Claudia Arney

Carol Atack

Angela Chadwyck-Healey

John and Jennifer Crompton

Nicola Dandridge and Andrew Nairne

Paul and Daisy Havranek

Simon and Midge Palley

Elizabeth Simpson, OBE

Crane Kalman Gallery

Alex Haidas and Thalia Chryssikou

Dr Christopher Mallinson

Polly Mallinson

Jonathan and Nicole Scot




Thank you also to all of those who donated to our Alfred Wallis for Everyone campaign.