- High quality 256 page production in both hard-cover and soft-cover versions.
- Over 260 illustrations of paintings and period photographs.
- Includes images of paintings from public collections and little-known paintings from private collections.
- Original interpretation of the sources of Wallis’s imagery drawn from the Cornish landscape and coast; from ports he knew and events he had witnessed.
- An understanding of merchant shipping and the Cornish fishing industry of the period.
- The author questions the perceived view of Wallis and gives a fresh insight into the artist’s character through correspondence and transcriptions from recorded memories of people who knew Wallis.
This new, revised and much enlarged edition of ‘Alfred Wallis Artist and Mariner’ describes Wallis’s early life in Devonport and shows how visually rich memories of this period found their way into his paintings sixty years later.
The book documents his move to Penzance and his marriage to Susan Ward three weeks before Wallis crossed the Atlantic as a seaman in the schooner Pride of the West. Through historic ships articles the author presents conclusive proof of his seagoing days and shows how events Wallis witnessed during these voyages were later recorded in his paintings.
The book describes Alfred and Susan Wallis’s move from Penzance in the 1880s where, for thirty years, they successfully ran The Marine Stores on the Wharf in St Ives, and earned Wallis the nickname ‘Old Iron’.
The author tells the story of Wallis starting to paint following the death of his wife and recounts the discovery of his work by Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood and examines the direct link from Wallis’s work to the abstract art of the St Ives Modernist movement that was to follow.
Robert Jones reevaluates the distorted view of Wallis that was perpetuated after his death and describes the effect of the recent proliferation of forgeries of Wallis's work.
The book contains previously unpublished images from the sketchbooks that Wallis filled with drawings during the last months of his life in Madron Public Assistance Institute.
Further insights into Wallis’s personality are revealed by previously unpublished letters. The book contains transcriptions of conversations between the author and people who knew and remembered Alfred Wallis in St Ives, and features many recordings made and transcribed by St Ives G.P. Dr Roger Slack.
Now available to purchase online direct from the author using the purchase buttons below. The book is also available from selected stockists.
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Book signed by the author if purchased through the link below on the Robert Jones website
Hard Cover in presentation slip-case
Book signed by the author if purchased through the link below on the Robert Jones website
Quotes about the book
Brigs and brigantines, schooners, luggers and ketches – these are the characters that people the paintings of Alfred Wallis. This enthralling book by the Cornish painter Robert Jones unlocks the private world of Wallis, who started making art, ‘for company’, after the death of his wife.
In his last seventeen years he produced between three and four thousand paintings, covering scraps of paper, cardboard, wood, household objects, anything that would bear the ship’s enamel paint that he used. As a neighbour recalled, ‘nothing was safe from where paint would go.’ Most of these works, given away to his neighbours, perhaps as payment for a Sunday meal, were simply thrown away or used to light the fire. But in 1928 the artists Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood, chancing on Wallis surrounded by his paintings in his house in St Ives, immediately recognised a new and potentially influential way of seeing. They encouraged him, started to collect his paintings and show them to others. Wallis would parcel up sheaves of paintings and send them to his little band of collectors, and for a few shillings they began to buy the best of them. These paintings, now in museums or private collections around the world, form the content of this handsome book.
Wallis painted mainly from his memory. His time at sea in the late 1800s, as a cabin boy or ordinary seaman on sailing ships, took him not only around the Cornish coast but across the Atlantic and as far afield as the Mediterranean. These ships plied a thriving reciprocal trade carrying all manner of goods, including coal, grain, Burmese rice, ice, salt-cod and pilchards. The sights that Wallis observed, and significant episodes from his time at sea, furnish all his work. Robert Jones has researched his life extensively and found many early photographs that correspond remarkably to Wallis’s imagery. These photographs, placed alongside Wallis’s paintings, serve as both explanation and vivid enhancement of the subject. More than that, they evoke the history of the period and follow the decline of sail, the advent of the first steamships, the coming of the railway, and the changes in maritime trade. The smell of sea and salt seems to seep from the pages of the book.
Equally palpable is Jones’s obvious fellow feeling for Alfred Wallis. He counters previous descriptions of Wallis as an illiterate, flea-ridden rag-and-bone man by presenting a picture of an honest, hard-working life based on strong religious principles - a seaman to the very core, intent on recording his seagoing memories.
Like Wallis, Robert Jones was at sea for some years as the skipper of a fishing boat, and he knows the Cornish coast intimately. He has been able to interpret Wallis’s map-like depictions of harbours, to identify the lighthouses and buoys, the rocks, shoals and estuaries, that figure in Wallis’s work. Jones’s extensive nautical knowledge has allowed him to explain the different types of ship, the riggings and ratlines, the drift and seine nets, and other important nautical features prominent in Wallis’s paintings. Perhaps no one else could have understood Wallis’s imagery so completely.
And what about the art? As a fellow sea painter, Jones knows the artistic potential of maritime imagery. The shapes of sails, rocks and waves possess a particular formal beauty that Wallis used to good effect. Can he be appreciated not as a ‘primitive’ painter, but as a modern master? His inventive depictions of sea and ships, ‘pictures of things that used to be’, drawn from his phenomenal memory, have certainly influenced other British painters. Entirely innocent of artistic tradition, Wallis has found his own idiosyncratic way to record those things ‘that must not be forgotten’. His natural feeling for line, as evinced by his fine copperplate handwriting; his intuitive grasp of positive and negative pictorial space; his ability to compose harmoniously on many differently shaped grounds; his tilted perspectives and his sense of scale, where the size of an object describes its importance - all these things have become part of the language of art. The ‘childlike’ vision so craved by Picasso – the imagination given free rein unhampered by training or tradition – this is a way of seeing aspired to by many artists today.
As the value of Wallis’s work has risen in line with his reputation, so has the number of forgeries. Robert Jones is frequently asked to authenticate paintings and has uncovered many forgeries, as well as acting as a major advisor in fraud cases brought by both Cornwall and Dorset Trading Standards. The book gives chapter and verse of such cases and serves as a warning to would-be buyers presented with a so-called Wallis work. Wallis’s relatively simple subject matter, which might seem easy to fake, and his growing posthumous reputation, have encouraged such frauds.
In this beautifully produced volume Robert Jones examines Wallis’s life and work as a fellow painter with sympathy and understanding. He tells the tale factually and straightforwardly, without critical comment. But he nevertheless makes a compelling case for Alfred Wallis, whose unique artistic innovations have earned him a place him among the modern masters.
“It is hugely important to have a book like yours, carefully researched, with a consistent theme: linking the artist's experience to his work, told with enthusiasm, deep knowledge & giving a consistently well informed but balanced view. Whenever anyone has mentioned Wallis to me, I have always referred them to your book & this one will now become the definitive study.
Your book, calm, thoughtful, considered but enthusiastic with sources provided for your theme, is such a refreshing change. I loved all the new info & the many beautiful photographs documenting the origins of Alfred’s work.”
“When so little was previously known about Alfred Wallis, both his life and creativity, Robert Jones’s book is essential reading for anyone who cares deeply about this highly original artist who led such a fascinating and tragic life. This book about Alfred Wallis is a testament to Robert Jones’s dedication and persistence. It is a singular achievement.”
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