Cornish Artist: Mary Jewels

We have Chris O'Brien (a Subscriber to my Blog) to thank for introducing us to Mary Jewels, a Cornish artist and a member of the Newlyn art colony. The painting colony at St Ives, Cornwall seem to have received more publicity so it is wonderful to learn about their Cornish cousins on the south coast who were painting a good while before those at St Ives. And my research has lead me to discover that the Penzance School of Art was established in 1853, long before either of these other two communities got going.

But today I dedicate to Mary Jewels(1886–1977) born in Newlyn, Cornwall (near to Penzance) at the time when the art colony was just beginning. Although Mary and her sister Cordelia (who was divorced from the sculptor Frank Dobson) lived amongst the artists Mary didn't take up painting until after she became a widow in 1918. She painted in the naive style as she had no formal training but she preferred to be known as a "natural painter". She was introduced to painting by Sir Cedric Morris (British artist) who frequented Cornwall to study and paint plants and who apparently sat her down and told her to 'cover the canvas in paint by evening'. Which she did, her obvious talent coming to light very quickly.
Black Ship Newlyn Landscape Old Newlyn Habour St Ives However, two of Mary's paintings I found demonstrate a very different and more sophisticated style, possibly done later in her life. Each shows her experimenting with images and moving towards an abstract style.
Woodland Walk (Mixed Media) Surrealist Head

Mary considered herself to be a Newlyn painter, being born there to Irish parents. However little local interest was shown in her work and I gather from my research that she might have been overshadowed by the local interest in Alfred Wallis (see Blog 17 January 2018). However she first exhibited in London in 1928 perhaps helped by her friends Augustus John and Dod Procter (born Doris Shaw 1890 - 1972) both of whom were professional artists and very well known in London circles. It is also possible that she didn't play the "right game" to gain local patronage as she said she didn't particularly like Alfred Wallis and from my reading I get the impression she might have been somewhat cantankerous being described by one writer as a "stormy petrel".

There can be no doubt that Mary Jewels was a talented artist. She has even been called the 'English Van Gogh' arising from her painting "Cornfields with peasants". Unfortunately I haven't been able to locate an image of this painting for us to see. As she lived such a long life she certainly got to observe and no doubt enjoy the development of the Cornish artists. She is reputed to have influenced the work of Christopher Wood whom we reviewed in the Blog (19 January 2018).

A Solo exhibition of her work was held in Newlyn 1977, the same year in which she died.

Tomorrow we will look at the painting of cornfields which has grabbed my curiosity since looking for Mary's painting of cornfields.

Anne Newman

Oil Painter in realistic genre style, predominantly buildings and people. To continue the discussion contact Anne on anewman@netspace.net.au or phone +61 407 516 522

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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