Stanley Horace Gardiner


Stanley Horace Gardiner (1887-1952) Exh. RA 18

Public Collections include Royal Collection, Norway and Penzance (on loan).

Born in Reading, Gardiner was initially apprenticed to a house decorator, necessitating a daily ride of 14 miles on a ramshackle bike. His first artistic efforts were produced using house paint on cardboard but, by attending evening classes, he won himself a scholarship to Reading University to study Fine Art under W.S.Collingwood, one-time secretary and associate of Ruskin. He then went to the Allen Fraser Art College in Arbroath in Scotland to work in oils, where he won the Well's Prize. Having finished his training, he decided to try his luck in the States, where he sought to make ends meet by painting, teaching and working as a lumberjack, but he often starved. Returning to England, he married the girl who had initially encouraged his artistic ambitions but then the War intervened. An exhibition of his paintings realised sufficient sales to enable the family to move down to Cornwall in 1923 and, encouraged by Lamorna Birch, they settled in Lamorna. Initially, their home was an old Army hut behind the local pub, The Wink, and times were hard as Gardiner studied further at the Forbes School in 1926. To make ends meet, Gardiner was forced to work as a deckhand on fishing boats and to make picture frames for Stanhope Forbes, Birch and other artists. However, as he developed his own style of landscape painting, which was heavily influenced by Birch, success began to come his way and the family moved down the valley to Lily Cottage, where the Lamorna stream comes tumbling through the garden. He built his own studio there and, in 1927, had his first success at the RA. He ran a small painting school from his home and joined the St Ives Society of Artists in 1938. In February 1939, he had his first London one-man show at the Fine Art Society, where he exhibited 42 paintings of Cornwall. In his introductory note to the catalogue, W.H.Giffard observed, "Grey stone farm buildings huddled round mudded yards, or blazing sunlight on simple haystacks, trees in early Spring when noontide yet retains its pristine freshness, the patterned fields of market gardens on cliffsides and sand glowing emerald through blue water are the inspiration of his work."

A reviewer praised him for "his fluent use of paint and swift impressionism, born of long companionship with nature and singleness of purpose." Despite his success, he remembered the hard times and, when a young clerk and his wife were taken with one of his paintings but could not afford it, he let them have it on trust. "They were strangers: there was no deposit. They paid in regular instalments. Why shouldn't every little home have a few paintings in a similar way?"

One of his works was purchased by Queen Maud of Norway. Towards the end of his life, he concentrated on still life paintings, mainly of flowers, which are vibrant with colour and light.

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

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