Stanhope Forbes

Stanhope Forbes

Armand Cabrera

Stanhope Forbes was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1857. When he was eleven, Forbes began drawing at the encouragement of family friends who took him on sketching trips. In college, Forbes began studying under John Sparkes. Sparkes emphasized drawing from casts and models, as opposed to copying drawings by the masters. Forbes enrolled in the Royal Academy School and briefly studied under Millias, Leghton and Alma Tadema.

In 1880, Forbes traveled to France, enrolling in the studio of Leon Bonnat near Montmartre. In Bonnat’s classes, Forbes was trained to paint from life. However, Bonnat did not sympathize with outdoor painting that was becoming popular with the students at the time. By 1881, Forbes was working in Cancale with other students who revered painting outdoors. The sale of a figure painting to the Walker Art Gallery so inspired Forbes that he dedicated his career to outdoor figure work.

Forbes finished his two years of study in France and returned home to England where he was anxious to establish himself as an artist. He began searching for a picturesque village to paint. He settled on Newlyn in Cornwall. Artists had been visiting the coast of Cornwall for years. A recently built rail stop to Penzance, only a few miles from Newlyn, allowed artists to live in the area and still have easy access to London and their galleries. Because of Forbes’ financial and critical success, he was considered the leader of the Newlyn Colony.

In 1886, he became engaged to Elizabeth Armstrong—an artist who had come to Newlyn to paint the year before. They married in 1889.

Forbes fidelity to outdoor figure work required a Herculean effort. He did not believe in painting nature as is compositionally and so each painting required much planning.

One of his most successful works, “A Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach” is 4 feet by 5 feet, with more than 26 figures. For this painting, Forbes had to contend with the challenges of weather and changing effects of light. To complicate matters, models were often unreliable.

Many of Forbes paintings were finished over months, not days, requiring the complexity equal to a movie set. To avoid losing precious time when the weather was inclement, Forbes painted interior scenes. Usually he was working on at least two paintings at the same time—one outdoor and one interior. His greatest successes came during the 1880’s and 1890’s. Forbes continued to paint Newlyn and its citizens for the rest of his life. He died in 1947 at the age of 90.

Stanhope Forbes and the Newlyn SchoolCaroline Fox
1993 David and Charles Publishing

The Good and Simple Life Artist Colonies in Europe and America
Michael Jacobs
1985 Phaidon Press

QuoteTo plant one’s easel down in the full view of all and work away in the midst of a large congregation needs a good deal of courage: but it takes even more to boldly ask some perfect stranger to pose for one under such trying conditions. But our principles demanded it and convinced of their virtue, I always strove to be consistent to them.
-Stanhope Forbes

Elizabeth Forbes

Elizabeth A. Forbes

Armand Cabrera

Elizabeth Armstrong was born in Ottawa, Canada in 1859. Her father encouraged her artistic abilities. He died of a stroke after sending Elizabeth and her mother (as chaperone) to school in England. Elizabeth returned to Canada in 1878. Elizabeth and her mother soon moved to New York where Elizabeth enrolled in the Art Students League. Elizabeth stayed at the League for three years, studying with William Merritt Chase. Chase was a strong proponent of painting from life and encouraged his students to do the same. Chase directed Elizabeth to continue her studies in Munich, where Chase had been trained. In Munich, Elizabeth confronted many difficult barriers. Being a woman and Canadian-born, she suffered much discrimination. After only five months of study, Elizabeth chose to return to Canada to escape the prejudice.

In 1882, Elizabeth persuaded her mother to move again. This time they traveled to Pont Avon, Brittany. There she participated in an active and lively art colony dedicated to outdoor study. In 1885, Elizabeth and her mother continued on to Newlyn. By this time, an uncle in London helped to establish a market for Elizabeth’s watercolors and etchings. It was in Newlyn where she met her future husband, the painter, Stanhope Forbes. They married in 1889. At that time, Stanhope was considered the leader of the Newlyn style.

Elizabeth was extremely hard-working and prolific; her marriage did little to change her habits. She showed her work at the Grosvenor Gallery in London as well as at the Royal Academy and the Society of British Artists. She won a Gold Medal in 1893 at the Chicago Exhibition. She also raised a son, taught classes, wrote poetry and edited The Paperchase, a magazine produced for the Newlyn artists. Elizabeth’s sensitive paintings of children were recognized for their fine draughtsmanship and color.

Elizabeth owned a movable studio on wheels. She would take this studio to locations and paint her models at the scene. Tragically, Elizabeth died in 1912 at the age of 53.

Stanhope Forbes and the Newlyn SchoolCarolyn Fox
David and Charles Publishers

The Good Simple Life: Artists Colonies in America and Europe
Michael Jacobs
Phaidon Press


It becomes a duel a l’outrance between artist and model, till at last, with the conviction that inextinguishable hatred has been kindled in those childish breasts the painter…returns on his road. But the children keep no grudges; the same rows of smiling eyes watch for my coming the next day and the duel begins anew…~Elizabeth Forbes talking about using children as models.