ONLINE TALK: The Penzance Pont-Aven vs the London Impressionists

This talk will be delivered by Zoom.
Writing in March 1888, the painter and founder of the Newlyn School of artists, Stanhope Forbes, expressed the opinion that the paintings of Walter Sickert were, “tawdry, vulgar and the sentiment of the lowest music hall” and hoped the artist’s paintings were not “in any way a true reflection of the painter’s mind”.

A few months later Sickert, reviewing the works of Forbes and his Newlyn contemporaries, stated: “Again and again we find canvases which have nothing to recommend them to the critic but a heavy travesty of the touch of second-rate French painters, praised for truth, which are full of untruths of value”.

There was little love lost between Forbes and Sickert, yet as members of the New English Art Club, at this time the single refuge for artists out of sympathy with the Royal Academy, the two were at the forefront of modern painting in Britain in the late 1880s and 1890s.

This talk will explore the work of both artists and contrast Forbes’ paintings of Newlyn with those of Sickert’s London. In addition, it will explore the issue that festered at the root of their disagreement – the battle for the future of British painting.


Based at the School of Art History, University of St Andrews, Dr Billy Rough’s research focuses on the relationship between British art and the theatre in the long-nineteenth century, with a particular interest in the work of Walter Sickert. He has published widely on his research including essays for Tate Britain’s ‘Walter Sickert’ exhibition catalogue (2022), The British Art Journal, The Journal of the Scottish Society for Art History, Tate Britain’s Camden Town Group in Context Research Project, and the Tate: In Focus series.

Dr Rough also delivered talks on his research at Tate Britain, Mansfield College, Oxford, the National Galleries of Scotland, Dundee’s Orchar Gallery and the Birmingham and Midlands Institute.

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