Charles Walter Simpson

 

Charles Walter Simpson RI (1885-1971) Exh. RA 48

Public Collections include QMDH, Victoria and Albert Museum, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Derby, Doncaster, Gateshead, Harrogate, Newcastle, Newport, Nuneaton, Paisley, Penzance, Plymouth, Sheffield, South Shields, Sunderland, Truro and, abroad, Christchurch, Dunedin and Perth.

Born in Camberly in Surrey, Simpson was the son of an Army Major-General and, as an artist, was largely self-taught but he studied for a while in 1904 at Bushey under Lucy Kemp-Welch, the well-known horse painter. He first came to Cornwall in 1905, staying initially at Tregethas Farm, and became involved with both the Newlyn and St Ives art colonies, taking lessons from Noble Barlow. In 1910, he studied briefly in Paris at Julian's Academy and, on his return, he became engaged to Ruth Alison, a fellow artist, just a couple of days after first meeting her. They were married in 1913, living first in Newlyn and then in Lamorna at 'Bodriggy'. Simpson relished painting en plein air and Laura Knight commented, "He was so prodigal with paint, he could be traced by the colour left on the bushes!". In 1915, he was awarded a gold medal at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco and, the following year, Ruth and he moved to St Ives to set up their own School of Painting, which they ran from Nos 1 and 2 Piazza Studios until 1924. During this period, Simpson dominated the St Ives art scene, often working on a grand scale, and he won a silver medal at the Paris Salon in 1923 and a gold medal at the VIII Olympiad in Paris in 1924.

In 1924, the Simpsons moved to London and Charles, noting the success of his friend, Alfred Munnings, turned towards equestrian painting and wrote and illustrated a number of books on hunting and other country pursuits. In 1931, the Simpsons returned to Cornwall and lived at 'Duncan's', formerly Charlotte Cottage, in Lamorna. Charles, though, concentrated during the 1930s on the occasional commission and his literary and illustrative work, which included Animal and Bird Painting, a review of the genre, and several books on photography. He did, however, exhibit two paintings of the coast at Lamorna at the RA in 1936 and later in the decade completed one of his masterpieces, The Stream at Clapper Mill, Lamorna (Newport Art Gallery), featuring one of his favourite subjects, ducks on the Lamorna stream.

During the Second World War, the Simpsons were invited by Jessica Heath to work on the land in Dorset and, on their return, finding 'Duncan's' too isolated, moved to Stanley House, Alverton in Penzance. He continued to paint Lamorna scenes, however, and played an important role in preventing the proposed re-development of the Valley in the mid-1950s. In the late 1950s, his work toured a number of municipal art galleries over a three year period but, after Ruth's death in 1964, he never painted again. The exhibition of his work at Penlee House Gallery and Museum in the autumn of 2005 and the accompanying biography by Lamorna Society member, John Branfield, should ensure that his exceptional talent as an artist is once more appreciated.

(Abridged extract from David Tovey, Creating A Splash : The St Ives Society of Artists (1927-1952), Wilson Books, 2004)

 

(The images below have kindly been supplied by John Branfield, author of the biography "Charles Simpson, Painter of Animals and Birds, Coastline and Moorland")

 

Leonara and the pet goat
"Leonara and the pet goat"

 

Mallard and Aylesbury Ducks
"Mallard and Aylesbury Ducks"

 

Return to The Artists page

Return to Home Page