Alfred Wallis Rediscovered
24 October 2020 – 20 June 2021
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 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.
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.
Alfred Wallis in the Kettle’s Yard Shop
We are grateful to the following for their generous support:
The Mandarin Trust
Suling Chan Mead
John and Claudia Arney
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
Jonathan and Nicole Scot