• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7424

    20th Century British Art

    16 November 2007, London, King Street

  • Lot 43

    Alfred Wallis (1855-1942)

    St Ives Harbour with Five Sailing Boats

    Price Realised  


    Alfred Wallis (1855-1942)
    St Ives Harbour with Five Sailing Boats
    oil and pencil on board
    7½ x 21 in. (19 x 53.3 cm.)

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    Wallis spent most of his life in St Ives and it was after his wife's death in 1922 that he began painting six days a week 'for company'. The Cornish town featured in many of his works, particularly the harbour as in the present work. Robert Jones comments, 'Wallis returned to the theme of St Ives Bay many times in paintings which are among the most poetic of all his work. Most of the St Ives Bay paintings have a similar format. In the top right corner is Godrevy Island with its lighthouse ... The objects protruding from the shore at the bottom of the painting are seine nets' (see Alfred Wallis: Artist and Mariner, Tiverton, 2001, p. 84).

    The seine nets, visible in the present work, were used for pilchard fishing and were held vertically in the water and anchored from the shore. On sighting shoals of pilchard the fishermen would row out and drag these long nets around the fish. In 1869 there were 260 seine nets in St Ives and it is recorded that in 1871 the town exported 43,000 hogsheads of cured pilchards, each one containing about 3,000 fish (see R. Jones, op. cit., p. 95). However, Wallis would have witnessed the decline and disappearance of this type of fishing from St Ives during the first part of the 20th Century.

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    Acquired by Arthur Jackson from his cousin Barbara Hepworth, and/or Ben Nicholson during the early/mid 1930s, and by descent.


    Edinburgh, Scottish Arts Council, Alfred Wallis, Christopher Wood, Ben Nicholson, April 1987, no. 10: this exhibition travelled to Stromness, Pier Arts Centre, May 1987; Aberdeen, Art Gallery and Museums, June 1987; Stirling, Smith Art Gallery and Museum, August 1987; and Cambridge, Kettle's Yard, September - October 1987.