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Alfred Wallis, Shipwreck 2 – The Wreck of the Alba, 1938-40
Alfred Wallis, Shipwreck 1 – The Wreck of the Alba, 1938-40

Shipwreck 1 & 2 – The Wreck of the Alba

About these works

Unlike most of Alfred Wallis’ paintings, which he painted from memory of events long past, the Wreck of the Alba was an event that he is rumoured to have witnessed in his eighties. On January 31, 1938, a cargo ship ran into rocks near the shore on route from Wales to Italy. St Ives sent out a crew to save them but it capsized in the storm. Some men from the freighter ship were killed, but the St Ives rescuers were all saved, really in thanks to hundreds of St Ives residents who came to the aid of the stricken vessel.

This incident deeply affected Wallis and he made a number of paintings in response. There is frenzy in his paintings depicting the harrowing scene, but also a calm and deep respect for the sea he knew so well.

About Alfred Wallis

Wallis was born in Devon in 1855. He was a fisherman and later a scrap-metal merchant in St Ives. After the death of his wife in 1922, he turned to painting as a way of fending off loneliness. He was admired by Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood, who came across his work when visiting St Ives in 1928 and included it in the Seven & Five Society’s exhibition of 1929. He died in Madron Poorhouse.

Where can I see these paintings?

These works are on display in Wreck and Ruin at Falmouth Art Gallery until 3 September 2016.