Stanhope Alexander Forbes NEAC RA (18 November 1857 – 2 March 1947) was a British artist and a founding member of the influential Newlyn school of painters. He was often called 'the father of the Newlyn School'. He was one of the founders of the New English Art Club in 1886.


Forbes was born in Dublin before his family moved to London. Educated at Dulwich College, he studied art under John Sparkes who later taught at South Kensington School of Art. His father then worked for the Luxembourg Railway and after a period of poor health Forbes was removed from Dulwich College and studied under private teachers in Brussels. This afforded additional time to draw. After the end of the Franco-Prussian War, the Forbes family returned to London. John Sparkes helped influence William Forbes to recognise his son's artistic talent. Stanhope Forbes then attended Lambeth School of Art (now the City & Guilds of London Art School). By 1878, he attended the Royal Academy under Sir Frederic Leighton and Sir John Millais. Fellow students at the academy included Arthur Hacker, Henry Herbert La Thangue and Solomon J. Solomon. He participated in his first exhibition there.


Forbes returned to Ireland for a few months to visit Dr Andrew Melville, family friend and Queen's College professor. While there the men shared their appreciation of art and Forbes painted landscapes of the Galway area. He also received his first commission for a portrait. Back in London, at the age of 18, he received another commission for a portrait of a doctor's daughter, Florence. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1879.


He then studied at the private atelier of Léon Bonnat in Clichy, Paris from 1880 to 1882. Henry Herbert La Thangue, who also attended Dulwich College, Lambeth School of Art and the Royal Academy, came to Paris, too, and studied at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts. Arthur Hacker, a friend from the Royal Academy joined Forbes at Bonnat's atelier. In 1881, Forbes and La Thangue went to Cancale, Brittany and painted en plein air, like Jules Bastien-Lepage, which became a technique that Forbes used throughout his career.

A painting made there, A Street in Brittany, was shown and well received at the 1882 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and sold later that year to the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. During an 1883 trip to Brittany, Forbes stayed at Quimperlé. His Breton Children in an Orchard - Quimperlé, was shown at the 1884 Royal Hibernian Academy. Two other works were made Fair Measures: a shop in Quimperlé and Preparations for the Market, Quimperlé; They were both shown at the Royal Academy in 1884. True to his degree of satisfaction, the Fair Measures painting was well-received, and the Market painting was found to be too blue and shadowless. Since blue was the colour of the Breton costumes, Forbes decided that it might be useful to change locations for a broader range of subjects and colours.



Having completed his studies in France, Forbes returned to London and showed works he made in Brittany at the 1883 Royal Academy and Royal Hibernian Academy shows. In 1884, he moved to Newlyn in Cornwall, and soon became a leading figure in the growing colony of artists. Of this place, Forbes said:


“I had come from France and, wandering down into Cornwall, came one spring morning along that dusty road by which Newlyn is approached from Penzance. Little did I think that the cluster of grey-roofed houses which I saw before me against the hillside would be my home for many years. What lode-some of artistic metal the place contains I know not; but its effects were strongly felt in the studios of Paris and Antwerp particularly, by a number of young English painters studying there, who just about then, by some common impulse, seemed drawn towards this corner of their native land... There are plenty of names amongst them which are still, and I hope will long by, associated with Newlyn, and the beauty of this fair district, which charmed us from the first, has not lost its power, and holds us still.”


The Slip was Forbes' first painting made in Newlyn. The artist colony received national attention with the Royal Academy exhibition of Forbes works in 1885. Henry Tate bought The Health of the Bride, which is now at the Tate Gallery in London. The exhibition of A Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach also brought notoriety to Forbes and the artist colony. He was one of the founders of the New English Art Club (NEAC) in 1886.

In 1892, Forbes became an Associate of the Royal Academy. Forbes was the founding chairman and trustee of the Newlyn Art Gallery beginning in 1895.


Newlyn Art School

Forbes was married in 1889 to fellow painter Elizabeth Armstrong at Newlyn's St Peter's Church. They founded the Newlyn Art School in 1899. It attracted students such as Ernest and Doris "Dod" Shaw, Frank Gascoigne Heath and Jill and Geoffrey Garnier. The Newlyn area had experienced an economic downturn as the result of failing fishing, mining and farming industries. The school helped to bring an economic resurgence to the area by encouraging individuals to vacation in the area and study and practise art.

His friends included Henry Herbert La Thangue, Blandford Fletcher and Charles E. Hannaford, who had also been a student. In Newlyn, Forbes tutored the landscape watercolourist Mabel Mary Spanton.
In 1910, Forbes was elected a Royal Academician. He became a member of the St Ives Society of Artists in 1928. In 1933 he was made a Senior Royal Academician.



Forbes generally painted genre scenes and landscapes en plein air. He also made interior scenes and was adept at capturing the "warm and charming" effects of lighting on a room and the people in it, such as The Lantern, made in 1897. More poignantly, Mrs. Lionel Birch writes of his style and particularly the painting The Health of the Bride: "[The painting depicts the] dominant note of his life's message, his sense of sympathetic humanity. These people in their humble little parlour, are real and living. Intolerant of all shams and false sentiment, the painter has made himself one with the people he depicts; he has understood the humour which lies so close to tears."


Of Forbes's works, Norman Garstin said: "he is a good unsentimental painter, his work has a sense of sincerity that appeals to everyone".
His works are in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Tate Gallery, Imperial War Museum in London, Penlee House, Royal Academy, Gallery Oldham, Queen Mary's Doll's House at Windsor Castle and in other museums in Britain, Australia and New Zealand.


The West Cornwall Art Archive, Penzance (WCAA) established the Forbes Reading Room in memory of Elizabeth and Stanhope Forbes. It contains books, files and information about art subjects related to the works of the Forbes and their students.


Forbes died in Newlyn on 2 March 1947 at the age of 89. He was buried in the churchyard of Sancreed Parish Church.


This is an edited version of the Wikipedia entry for Stanhope Forbes.

You can view a selection of Forbes' paintings on the ArtUK website.


Featured painting: 'A Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach' (1885) Oil. Photo credit: The Box (Plymouth City Council)