In 1917 Cedric Morris travelled to Cornwall for the first time and stayed for a year studying wildlife and painting watercolours. He lived at Zennor, not far from where this work was painted on a return sojourn some fifteen years later. In 1919, Cedric and partner Arthur Lett-Haines returned to Cornwall and lived in the fishing village Newlyn where they acquired a house overlooking the harbour. The house became a popular haunt among the younger modern artists living and working in Newlyn, St Ives and Lamorna and was famed for its wild parties and bold interior furnishings. Towards the end of 1920 they sold the house and moved to Paris, though they often returned to see friends.

Gurnard’s Head, Cornwall was likely painted during a trip in the early 1930s. That Cornwall remained a strong influence on Morris is reflected in his one-man show at The Leicester Galleries in April 1932, in which this landscape was exhibited, alongside five...

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In 1917 Cedric Morris travelled to Cornwall for the first time and stayed for a year studying wildlife and painting watercolours. He lived at Zennor, not far from where this work was painted on a return sojourn some fifteen years later. In 1919, Cedric and partner Arthur Lett-Haines returned to Cornwall and lived in the fishing village Newlyn where they acquired a house overlooking the harbour. The house became a popular haunt among the younger modern artists living and working in Newlyn, St Ives and Lamorna and was famed for its wild parties and bold interior furnishings. Towards the end of 1920 they sold the house and moved to Paris, though they often returned to see friends.

Gurnard’s Head, Cornwall was likely painted during a trip in the early 1930s. That Cornwall remained a strong influence on Morris is reflected in his one-man show at The Leicester Galleries in April 1932, in which this landscape was exhibited, alongside five other depictions of Cornish landscapes.

Gurnard’s Head, the subject of this landscape, is a headland on the north coast of the Penwith peninsula. The Penwith peninsula became home to an astounding range of 20th century British creatives, from Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson to Bernard Leach. Morris and Lett predated the arrival of many of the St Ives School artists; Lucian Freud later recalled being told that Morris was known as ‘the Cezanne of Newlyn’.[1]

The year that this landscape was painted marks a pivotal moment in Morris’ life. Morris’ status as an artist had grown significantly since the success of his 1928 Arthur Tooth & Sons solo exhibition, in which all of his works sold, including many more from his studio. In 1930, Morris represented the British contingent at the Venice Biennale and had another show at his London dealer, Arthur Tooth & Sons, in which nearly all of the paintings were sold before the evening of the private view. This level of success, partially thanks to Lett’s determination in promoting his partner’s artwork, instilled in Morris a sense of dissatisfaction. Shortly after his show, he sent a letter of resignation to Arthur Tooth & Sons, which stated ‘there appears to be a tendency to eliminate the more unusual and the technically interesting.’[2] Although Morris did continue to exhibit his work in London throughout the 1930s-50s, his indifference to the commercial aspect of the art world pushed him to the edge of the metropolitan art scene.

Unconventionally, this distance from the London art scene suited Morris perfectly. He continued to divide his time between travelling and transforming his new home in the English countryside, The Pound, into an artistic paradise. By the date that this landscape was painted, Morris’ love of nature and wildlife fully outweighed any inclination toward metropolitan artistic successes.

[1] Morphet, R., (1984) Cedric Morris. London: The Tate Gallery, p.21.

[2] Morris, C. quoted in St. Clair, H. (2019) A Lesson in Art & Life: The Colourful World of Cedric Morris & Arthur Lett-Haines. London: Pimpernel Press LTD, p. 72.

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500 Years of British Art