In celebration of Bristol’s year as European Green Capital, the RWA is proud to present a major exhibition of rural realist paintings by the world famous Newlyn School artists (1880 - 1930) and their contemporaries.
Predominantly focusing on our of the region’s most notable artistic enclaves, Into the Fields also includes associated artists such as George Clausen and Henry La Thangue. The RWA’s history includes a rich relationship with Newlyn, so it is fitting that the show includes RWA Academicians such as Dame Laura Knight, Stanhope Forbes and Thomas Cooper Gotch, as well as regular exhibitors including Walter Langley, ‘Lamorna’ Birch and Frank Gascoigne Heath.
Like their Barbizon School forebears, the Newlyn School represented rural workers as timeless and heroic, resourceful and sustainable. They captured the farmworkers with earthy hues, representing in visual form their symbiotic relationship with the land. These noble workers are shown alongside representations of the soil’s fruits, from farming and gardening to mining and quarrying.
With subjects drawn from rural life – often painted en plein air – the exhibition explores a multitude of themes and rural locales, from the darkened cowsheds of Harold Knight’s Milking the Goat (c.1907, oil on canvas) to the farmhouse steps of Albert Chevallier Tayler’s Feeding Time (1884, oil on canvas). From here we gently step out to cross outlying meadows and cornfields, such as in George Clausen’s The Orchard (1881, oil on canvas), before exploring the furrowed fields of Harold Harvey’s Hoeing Parsley, Mounts Bay (1913, oil on canvas) and the panoramic landscape of Dame Laura Knight’s epic vista in Spring (1916-20, oil on canvas).
However, a notable absence is of any sign of industrialisation, which was then sweeping through a rapidly urbanising nation. The Newlyn School deliberately set out to capture the traditional farming methods vanishing from our heritage, providing an interesting parallel with contemporary debates about the sustainability of modern agricultural techniques. Such questions lead us back to key concerns absorbing the city in its year as European Green Capital, whilst bringing some of the nineteenth and twentieth century’s most popular painters to the RWA to create a visually stunning walk through the Cornish countryside.
‘Into the Fields’ has been developed from ‘Sons and Daughters of the Soil’, staged at Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance, spring 2015, to celebrate the United Nations’ ‘International Year of the Soil’. The RWA would like to thank Penlee House Gallery & Museum for their invaluable assistance throughout, and to thank the generosity of all public and private lenders.