8 January 2016
Our work of the week is Alfred Wallis’ ‘Land, Fish and Motor Vessel’, which is one of 12 Alfred Wallis paintings we’ve lent to The Shadow of the Avant-Garde Rousseau and the Forgotten Masters at Museum Folkwang in Essen, which closes on 10 January 2016.
This work is from 1932-34, which is within Wallis’ most productive period. During this time parcels ‘criss-crossed and knotted with a thousand pieces of string’ were sent to Ben Nicholson and Jim Ede as soon as the paintings were dry.
From many years as a mariner and fisherman, Wallis built up a deep and intimate knowledge of his subject matter; ships and boats. His ships and boats were often painted with an extraordinary amount of technical detail which would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for a person without prior knowledge to illustrate. Using his memory as the source for his paintings was a way for Wallis to hold on to an age that was fast disappearing, or rather redeveloping. His attachment to the ships of his lifetime can be felt in his work and his writings: “each boat of that fleet had a soul, a beautiful soul shaped like a fish”.