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The Home of the Famous British Primitive Artist Alfred Wallis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was to this cottage that he retired and after the death of his wife - painted for twenty years, "...for company." He was discovered by other famous St.Ives artists: Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Christoper Wood and Peter Lanyon. His work can be seen in the Tate Gallery.

           

3 Back Road West, TR 26 1NE - his home from 1912, from when he retired at the age of fifty seven  running the Marine Stores on the harbour front in St. Ives.  He retired, not because he was not vigorous enough to continue, but due to his wife being seventy-eight and probably not able to.  They saved for four years to buy the little cottage and lived happily together for a decade.  Wallis' wife died on 7th June 1922, they had been married for forty-six years.  Left alone his self reliance began, gradually suspicion and isolation filled his last years.

The story goes that Wallis painted 'for company', he began to paint around 1925 and bought paint and brushes in the Digey. He often used boat paints and usually painted on pieces of card left by locals. Undoubtedly his cottage fell into a state of decay towards the end, Mullins wrote that Wallis was: 'a man locked up darkly within himself', Wallis is often seen towards the end of his life as aggressive and maddened by voices.

It is said that Wallis did not go upstairs after Susan died, he lived, slept and painted in his single downstairs room.  As was the custom in St. Ives with those unable to fend for themselves, Wallis was brought meals by his neighbour and relatives.  There is a myth that he was ungracious towards this food, suspecting it to be poisoned.

Ben Nicholcon remembering the day he and Christopher Wood first met Wallis. They came up from Porthmeor Beach, and: 'passed an open door in Back Road West and through it saw some paintings of ships and houses on odd pieces of paper and cardboard nailed up all over the wall, with particularly large nails through the smallest ones. We knocked on the door and inside found Wallis, and the paintings we got from him then were the first he made.'

He was apparently knocked down by a car in the Digey, an event datable to March 1937.  It was thought that it was the Mayor's car, but no accident is reported in the local newspaper.  The accident initiated the decline of his final five years.

In 1940, on the Show day when artists would open their studios to the public, Wallis was visited by Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Peter Lanyon.  In 1941 he could no longer look after himself satisfactorily and was sent to the Madron Institution for fourteen months.  He settled in well with the other 'inmates' and decorated the walls of his room with ships!

He died on the 29th August 1942, at the age of eighty-seven and was buried in a plot in Porthmeor Cemetry on the same hillside overlooking the Atlantic as 3 Back Road West.