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Polperro Artists

For more than a century, Polperro has attracted artists who have painted, sketched and etched its picturesque harbour scenery and dramatic landscape.

Joseph Farington sketch North view of Polperro by Joseph Farington


One of the first artists to arrive in Polperro was Joseph Farington in 1810. A landscape painter and member of the Royal Academy, he was on an extended visit to the West Country when he stayed at the Ship Inn in Polperro.

He recorded in his diary at the time that he "went to the rocks at the entrance to the harbour and being favoured by the weather passed several hours in tinting a sketch of Polperrow."


Many other artists have since settled in the community. Some, like Herbert Butler, Oskar Kokoschka and Tom Morton have achieved considerable artistic recognition. Many others however have been content to come to Polperro and capture the many delightful views and contrasting features around the harbour.

Herbert Butler and Charles Boutwood even ended up marrying local sisters Sophia and Thirza Pond at the end of the 19th century.

Midsummer Bonfire by Herbert Butler

Today, artists continue to exhibit their work in Polperro. The Polperro Arts Foundation gallery is located at the Chapel Rock studios in Quay Road, Polperro. The Foundation is a non profit-making organisation established to promote the work of resident artists and craftspeople of Polperro. It aims to build on Polperro's heritage as an artists' haven and to re-establish the village as a leading arts centre in Cornwall and the South West. The generosity of local businesses and friends has made it possible for the Foundation to give both work and exhibition space to keen local youngsters and schools. In addition, it is hoped that occasional lectures, duscussions, art classes and workshops will encourage a new interest in the flourishing arts of Polperro. Click here to go to the Polperro Arts Foundation page.

Sue Lord came to Polperro over 20 years ago after teaching in the East End of London. She is now Head of Art at Looe Community School.

Apart from her many stage-set designs, her oil paintings have centred capturing the languid stillness of small boats in Polperro harbour and the transient colours and movement in water and skies. Harbour scenes and large seascapes in Cornwall and Western Australia remain her focus.

Lawson's Boat by Sue Lord

The Ebenezer Gallery is home to the East Cornwall Society of Artists. Originally opened as a Bible Christian Chapel in 1877, the gallery now houses many fine paintings in all media, including oils, pastels and watercolours as well as examples of work by local potters, ceramicists and wood-turners displayed on both floors of the building.

The East Cornwall Society of Artists welcomes new members.

Oskar Kokoschka, born in Austria of Czech parents in 1886, is probably the most celebrated artist to have actually lived in Polperro. Regarded as one of the great Viennese artists, he came to England in 1938 after fleeing Prague and settled in Polperro the following year.

There, Kokoschka made a number of watercolours of the local scenery while his wife Olda ran a pastry shop. Only a year later, however, the couple returned to London, convinced that their neighbours were suspicious of them. After the war, Kokoschka moved to Switzerland where he remained until his death in 1980.

Polperro by Oskar Kokoschka

Lansallos Street by H.E.Butler

Herbert Edward Butler (1861-1931) was born in London and trained at the Royal Academy School. He came to Polperro with his artist friend Charles Boutwood where they met and married the Pond sisters, Thirza and Sophia. Herbert and Sophia lived on Talland Hill where he had a painting school. He exhibited at the Royal Academy and, as well as the larege oil paintings so fashionable with the Victorians, he turned more to smaller watercolours after the First World War. He also did a lot of book illustrations.

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