Friday, December 6, 2013

The fate of artist colonies

Edward Simmons, "Gathering Wood, Concarneau" - 1883
After visiting the Newlyn colony of painters in Cornwall, American artist Edward Simmons described the usual fate of artist colonies:

"The artist finds a place that is beautiful, undiscovered, and suits his pocketbook. He goes there for two years. The third year other artists follow him; the fourth year come the retired British admirals and "vamps"; the fifth year the artist leaves; the sixth come the wealthy people who spend a lot of money on it, making it as ugly and dear as possible, but soon tire and go away. Then the artist comes back again and begins all over, picking the bones of what the Money Bags had killed."


Kate said...

What a delicious, cynical (but probably true) little quote. The link makes me want to rush off and paint in Cornwall. Parts of it are still very reasonable to live in.

Tom Sarmo said...

That's awesome!

Taylor Lambert said...

Mr. Gurney,
This is great! Edward Emerson Simmons is a relative of mine, a maternal uncle I believe. It's great to see his work get some recognition. I have an old, tattered copy of From Seven to Seventy; unfortunately all of the plates are black and white, but it's still a fun read. As an animation/illustration student (SJSU), it is especially inspiring to be following a path similar to his, and to share in the struggle of trying to do something well. Thanks for posting!

Adam Rex said...

Short version: I was into Newlyn when it was cool.

Jenny Woolf said...

Do the artists really return, though? I dont ever feel they do.

Pyracantha said...

I feel sympathy for the young girl in the painting. You can see that she is dreaming of a better life even though she is doomed to drudgery. She hopes that someday she might do something better than gather twigs in the mud. The painting tells that story.

Meanwhile: Artist colonies like the McDowell Colony and "Yaddo" are still going strong, supporting artists and not becoming the playthings of rich people.

James Gurney said...

Katherine, me too. I'd love to see where the Newlyn painters were working. Probably hard to get the fishermen to pose for hours on end (with dead fish) like they used to.

Adam, that's amazing that you've been to Newlyn! It ceased to be cool when you left.

Taylor, that's amazing that you're related to Simmons. He was such a great writer. I'm reading a chapter of his autobiography each night to Jeanette as she knits, and he makes the life of the 19th century artist come alive. You've got that artistic blood in your veins.

Pyracantha, good point, and I'm glad there are colonies that haven't been messed up. About that girl in the painting, Simmons talks about the girls who modeled in rural France. He said they never took off their headpieces when they were outside, and they hardly ever bathed.

Jenny, I suppose not. We've got to start new colonies. That's our job.