We all know Cornwall is a bright and vibrant place to visit. But if you want to add even more colour to your holiday in Cornwall, you might want to consider hitting the art trail to experience the fabulous art for which this location is renowned. With its rich artistic heritage and inspirational scenery, there are few holiday destinations better suited to art fans. It doesn’t matter whether you are an experienced artist, aspiring painter or simply wish to soak up the artistic atmosphere, Cornwall presents a culture infused with a fantastic diversity of artistic styles and genres.
Explore Fine Art in St Ives
You can’t wander far in any town in Cornwall without stumbling across an art gallery or souvenir shop selling paintings, prints, photographs and crafts celebrating the Cornish landscape and lifestyle. In some locations the creative work of local artists literally spills out on to the streets and this is especially true in St Ives. Renowned for its quality of light and beautiful scenery, St Ives has been inspiring artists and visitors for generations.
In fact some of the earliest tourists visiting Cornwall were artists, drawn by the fantastic sea vistas, boundless skies and growing artisan community that frequented St Ives. Famous painters Turner, Sickert and Whistler were all known to have visited the area in the 19th Century and in 1920 the internationally renowned potter Bernard Leach set up a studio in St Ives. It is possible to see works of this great potter, plus artists who have followed in his footsteps, at the Leach Pottery museum.
Other artists followed and mingled with locally born painters such as Alfred Wallis to form a community of artists, who made St Ives famous worldwide. The British painter Ben Nicholson joined the St Ives collective when he moved here with his wife Barbara Hepworth at the outbreak of the second world war in 1939. Nicholson later left but Hepworth lived and worked as a sculptor in the town at Trewyn Studios until her death in 1975. It is possible to see many of her great works and visit the studio where she worked at the Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Garden.
Many art schools were established in St Ives at the time and in the decades that followed. Today you can join painting, drawing and sculpting classes while on holiday in the area. St Ives is so important to the British art scene that in the early 1990s the Tate organisation built and opened Tate St Ives to showcase noteworthy local and international exhibitions. It remains a must-see attraction if you’re staying in this part of Cornwall. There are dozens of other great art galleries and crafts shops to explore in the town, including outlets for Cornish glassware artist Jo Downs.
Experience Spectacular Art in Newlyn
Nearby Newlyn has had an equally rich artistic history. Like St Ives, it became the location for a important artists’ colony known as the Newlyn School. Much smaller than St Ives, Newlyn was, and still is, a thriving fishing village providing much inspiration to visiting and resident artists. Big names in the movement included Lamorna Birch and Stanhope Forbes.
Today you can see some of the fine art produced during that period and the work of contemporary artists in galleries, including the Newlyn Art Gallery and a variety of other galleries in nearby Penzance. Penlee House Gallery and Museum has a fascinating exhibition of painters from the Newlyn School and their influence on modern artists. The PZ Exchange, The Contemporary Gallery and other independent galleries provide a showcase of old and new artists from across the county. If you fancy participating in some art classes, you can learn from local artists at the Newlyn School of Art.
Find Up-And-Coming Art in Falmouth
Falmouth is another town which has attracted artists over the centuries, thanks to its wonderful seascapes and narrow bustling streets. Soaked in maritime history, Falmouth is a huge natural port littered with sailing boats of all sizes and colours. It’s little wonder that painters and artists used these wonderful scenes as inspiration for their artwork.
The best place to visit for art lovers is the Falmouth Art Museum, which has fine collection of 19th and 20th century art plus contemporary exhibitions by Cornish artists. It is also possible to catch the works of up-and-coming artists in the boutique galleries around the town or at end-of-year shows at the Falmouth School of Art. This famous art school which only recently acquired university status has attracted talented students from UK and world for over a century.
Witness a Wealth of Art in Fowey
Heading further east on the Cornwall art trail leads you to the small artists enclave of Fowey, which seems to be bursting at the seams with galleries and craft shops. Located on the Fowey estuary, amid yet more stunning Cornish scenery, the town bathes in glorious natural light providing a continuing source of inspiration and fascination for local artists.
One of the best places to head for great art is the Fowey River Gallery, which hosts an ever-changing display of exhibitions and new works by prominent local artists. Also worth a visit is the Toe in the Water Gallery which showcases and sells art and crafts inspired by the sea and coastline.
More Great Art in Padstow
This outpost of Cornish art on the rugged North Coast is a picturesque fishing town located on the colourful Camel estuary. Padstow and the surrounding area is home to many notable artists who draw inspiration from the rocky coastline, sandy shores and deep blue sea. Among these is the superb contemporary artist David Pearce who regularly exhibits his modern sea scenes at shows worldwide and locally at Padstow Fine Art.
Like all the other locations on the Cornish art trail, the streets of Padstow are lined with galleries, art shops and craft stores selling paintings and objets d’art of all standards, for all budgets. One of the newest galleries in Padstow, the Drang Gallery caters to the wealthier end with its display of exciting works by established British artists, previously including Damien Hirst and Sir Terry Frost.
Get Set for Your Art Holiday in Cornwall
Whether you want to admire great works, pick up a memento or immerse yourself in the creative vibe, the Cornish art trail will lead you through some of the most beautiful, culturally rich locations Cornwall has to offer taking you on a tour through the treasure trove of historic and contemporary art found in Cornwall today. If you want to carve your own trail or simply soak up the art scene, St Ives is the perfect base for you to create, immerse and explore Cornwall’s arty side. Visit Carbis Bay Holidays for self catering holiday accommodation in the town and the surrounding area.