8th March 2017
Falmouth Art Gallery is a small gallery above Falmouth Library on the first floor of the former municipal buildings and first College of Art and Science. In the entrance gallery the north facing skylight is still visible in what was once the drawing room. In this gallery there was a temporary exhibition of vibrant and painterly work by Michael J Strang entitled, “Let paint be my metaphor: the glory of Cornish hedges“. The glory captured by Strang in his stunning paintings resonated for me with the comments made by the playright Dennis Potter, less than a month before he died of cancer, in a TV interview with Melvyn Bragg:
… I’m almost serene, I can celebrate life. Below my window, for example, the blossom is out in full. It’s a plum tree. It looks like apple blossom, but it’s white. And instead of saying, ‘Oh, that’s nice blossom, looking at it through the window when I’m writing, it is the whitest, frothiest, blossomiest blossom that there ever could be.
Though use of pure white highlights in the blossoms against the blue background of the sky and the network of the darker twigs Strang captures so skilfully in paint the blossomest blossom or leafiest leaves.
Falmouth’s art collection dates from 1923, with gifts made by Alfred de Pass (1861–1952), a South African businessman and art benefactor. These have encouraged other donations over the years and the collection includes work by many leading British artists as well as other great European artists. The main current exhibition, “Gifted to Falmouth” celebrates the donors who have gifted, bequeathed and funded works for Falmouth’s impressive collection of over 2,000 works of art. It includes work by Brangwyn, Burne-Jones, Munnings, Nicholson, Opie and Waterhouse.
Apart from visiting for the first time had wanted to see work by English abstract artist, Harry Ousey 1915-1985, who came to Cornwall to be part of the inspirational group of artists surrounding Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth. His niece is a good friend and donated 25 of Harry’s paintings to the Gallery after he died.
I also thought it would be interesting to see still life painting given my current research task in Part 2. In the event there were only two still lifes in the exhibition of about forty paintings. These were two striking paintings by lesser known artists, Sophie Anderson 1823-1903 (though little known Sophie Anderson became the first Cornwall- based woman artist to have a painting sell for over a million pounds at auction- “No walk today” sold at Sotheby’s. lot 96, on 19th November 2008 for £1,038050) and Kenneth Newton 1933-1984.