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Alfred Wallis
Dates: British, 1855 - 1942
Biographical Account:

Alfred Wallis was born on 18 August 1855. After leaving school Alfred became an apprentice to a basket maker before becoming a mariner in the merchant service. He sailed as a deep-sea fisherman on schooners across the North Atlantic between Penzance and Newfoundland.


In 1890 Wallis, his wife and stepchildren moved to St. Ives, Cornwall, where he established his marine stores business, "Wallis, Alfred, Marine Stores Dealer". In 1912 it closed and he kept busy with odd jobs around St. Ives.


Wallis only took up painting in 1922 as a comfort, after the death of his wife. He painted seascapes from memory. He never had much money and had to improvise using various materials, he mainly painting on cardboard ripped from packing boxes using limited paint supplies bought from ships' chandlers.


In 1928, Ben Nicholson and Kit Wood came to St Ives, where they established an artist colony. Wallis became part of the circle of some of the most progressive artists working in Britain in the 1930s. Through Nicholson and Wood, Wallis’s work was promoted in London, however despite this attention, he sold few paintings and continued to live in poverty for the rest of his life. He died in the Madron workhouse in Penzance on 29 August 1942.

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