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Saltash (or Devonport?), 1928-30

Wallis never painted from life, preferring to work from memory in his St. Ives cottage. For Boats under Saltash Bridge he drew upon memories going back to his early years. The Royal Albert Bridge was built in 1859 to create a rail link between the towns of Saltash and Devonport, on the Southern coast of Cornwall. Wallis had grown up there and he would almost certainly have returned as a sailor.

The painting is skilfully constructed around the play between the represented view and the unusual trapezoidal shape of the support, with the unmistakable profile of the bridge dominating the sea and the ships below. The disregard of traditional concepts of colour and perspective emphasises Wallis’s very personal vision, in which the reality of the place is distorted in accordance with his recollection of it.

Painting [AW 6]


Oil and watercolour on watercolour board

747 x 532 mm

About the artist

Wallis was born in Devon. 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.