Anchor History

Stanhope Forbes
John Wells
Anchor Studio
with glass house
Newlyn Art School class
at Anchor

Anchor Studio was constructed in 1888 as a purpose-built studio for Stanhope Forbes, the father of the Newlyn School, and the most commercially and critically successful member of the Newlyn art colony. His work tended to illustrate the nobility of working life, recording the lives of local fishermen, craftspeople and women, often the people of Newlyn. Situated in the heart of Newlyn overlooking the harbour, Anchor was one of a group of studios built on ‘The Meadow’ for the Newlyn School artists. It was listed Grade II in 2004 and upgraded to Grade II* in 2018.

The studio was built largely in its current form, with a single storey granite ‘cottage’ at the west end, and the east end with entirely glazed walls and roof. This allowed the studio to be used both as a domestic backdrop for paintings, as well as functioning as a ‘sky’ studio, allowing the artist to paint in natural light, whatever the weather. It was also used between 1888 and 1895 for exhibitions of works by Newlyn colony artists, principally paintings destined for the Royal Academy.

Sometime between 1892 and 1899 the glazed end of the studio was boarded over and a slate roof added,
and in 1897 Forbes and his wife Elizabeth, set up the Newlyn School of Painting which was also known as the Forbes School. The School ran until about 1940, and attracted several students who went on to become distinguished artists, including 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. Laura and Harold Knight, Charles Simpson and Cedric Morris were among other established artists who were drawn to Newlyn by the success of the School.

Following the death of Stanhope Forbes in 1947, John Wells rented Anchor from his widow, before buying it in 1949, and remained there for the rest of his life. Friends with Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Naum Gabo, Wells produced abstract paintings and relief constructions, and although based in Newlyn, he was at the centre of artistic activity in post-war St Ives. He was also close friends with Peter Lanyon, Patrick Heron and Bryan Wynter, and one of the founder members of the Crypt Group and Penwith Society of Artists.

John Wells later bought the neighbouring Trewarveneth Studios in 1967, and invited Dennis Mitchell to share it with him. Mitchell had been Barbara Hepworth’s principal assistant for over 10 years, but was now an established sculptor in his own right. Wells was also instrumental in attracting Terry Frost to Newlyn. When John Wells died in 2000, Anchor Studio was bequeathed to the Borlase Smart Trust.

Anchor Studio has therefore remained in its original use as an artist’s studio continuously since it was built in 1888. It was originally called Meadow Studio, and was probably renamed Anchor Studio by John Wells in 1949 because of the presence of a large anchor next to the building. Recent research has
uncovered the fascinating story of this anchor. As part of his recording of village life, Forbes wanted to paint the blacksmith at work, but found that the forge was too dark and smoky. He describes how he recreated the forge in his studio using a painted backdrop, and the subsequent painting ‘Forging the Anchor’ clearly shows architectural features of Anchor Studio.

To read about the Cornwall Fishing Industry 1880-1900 as portrayed by the Newlyn painters Click here (pdf)