The Grade II* Anchor Studio has been at the heart of cultural life in Newlyn since the 1880s, used initially for over 60 years by Stanhope and Elizabeth Forbes, two of the most important Newlyn School artists, and then by John Wells, one of the principal St Ives Modernists.
Following the death of John Wells, Anchor Studio was gifted to the Borlase Smart Memorial Fund in 2002, which changed its name to the Borlase Smart John Wells Trust in recognition of this bequest.
Anchor Studio was constructed in 1888 as a purpose-built studio for Stanhope Forbes, the most commercially and critically successful member of the Newlyn art colony. The studio was built largely in its current form and incorporated a single storey granite ‘cottage’ at the west end, which functioned as a stage set and allowed it to be used as a domestic backdrop for several paintings by Stanhope and Elizabeth Forbes.
Sometime between 1892 and 1899, Forbes and his wife Elizabeth set up the Newlyn School of Painting at Anchor. This ran until about 1940 and attracted several students who went on to become distinguished artists, including Frances Hodgkin, Dod and Ernest Proctor, Frank Gascoigne Heath, Jill and Geoffrey Garnier and John Wells. Jim Ede, founder of Kettles Yard, also studied at the school.
When Stanhope Forbes died in 1947, Anchor was sold to one of his former pupils, John Wells, who lived and worked at Anchor until his death in 2000. Wells was an abstract painter and constructivist, who was friends with and influenced by Ben Nicholson and Naum Gabo. Despite living in Newlyn, he was one of several young modernist artists closely associated with artistic life in post-war St Ives.
Anchor Studio came into the Trust’s possession in 2002, but over a century of exposure to storms had left the timber structure and roof in a very fragile condition. The two largest windows, one north-facing and the other in the west gable end, had rotted out and been boarded over. The building was completely renovated and reopened in 2021, and the work documented here.
The Story of Anchor Studio is a publication produced to mark the renovation, edited by Elizabeth Knowles and with contributions from Anne Barlow, Rolfe Kentish, Joanna Mattingly, Catherine Wallace, Barry West and a foreword by Nicholas Serota, it is available to purchase here.