Maurice Sumray. 1920 – 2004 researched by Angela Ball

The Entertainer’ by Maurice Sumray 1990
“The Entertainer” 1990 Etching 19.5 x 14.5 Cornwall Council Schools Art Collection

Maurice Sumray was both a painter and a pencil draughtsman.   He studied engraving from 1935 – 1940, and from the age of 16 his work was shown at the Whitechapel Gallery in London.

During the War years (1940 -46) he served with the Ministry of Economic Warfare.

He was a member of the Hogarth Group of Painters from 1942 – 1946.

From 1946 – 1949, after the war, together with his twin brother Harman, also an artist, he set up SUNRAY TEXTILES,   then both gained scholarships to the Goldsmith’s College  School of Art. In 1950 Wyndham Lewis, a prominent critic of the time praised one of his exhibited paintings, titled “Lovers “, calling him one of the best artists in England.

Clown sumray
Maurice Sumray, ‘Clown’, oil on canvas, 30 x 25 inches

But Maurice Sumray was a slow and very self-critical artist, and in 1953 he gave up painting altogether.  He destroyed all the artwork in his possession, and from 1953 – 1968 turned to engraving as a medium, establishing a studio and developing the FLEXOGRAPHIC process. (A flexible printing plate usually wrapped round a rotating cylinder enabling the artist to print on a variety of materials and now used widely in graphic art.)

1n 1968 he moved with his wife and family to St Ives.  Once there he returned to painting, still working slowly with a very thin brush.    Many of his figure studies featured clowns, and jugglers, and were meticulously designed in the manner of early Italian paintings.

He was elected a member of the Penwith Society of Arts in 1980, and the Newlyn society of Painters in 1981, with his paintings being regularly exhibited.  Retrospective exhibitions in 1984 and 1997 brought great acclaim.

Some of his work is held by the British Museum.


Alan Lowndes 1921-1978 researched by Christine Stalley

Fishing Boat 1966 by Alan Lowndes
Fishing Boat Cornwall Council Schools Collection

Alan Lowndes was born in Stockport. His mother died when he was three and he was brought up by his father. As a child he loved drawing and aged nine stated that he wanted to be an artist.

He left school at fourteen becoming an apprentice decorator. At evening classes he learnt to use the old method of mixing linseed oil with primers, undercoats and ground coats, giving him an extensive knowledge of oil paint.

At nineteen he joined the army and served in Italy during WW11. He continued drawing and sent home pen and ink drawings of peaceful Italian villages. At the end of the war he attended an art class in Florence as part of the repatriation scheme preparing soldiers for civilian life.

Returning from Italy he continued for a while as a decorator, enrolling in an evening painting class under the guidance of Emanuel Levy. Soon after, he gave up decorating to paint designs on headscarves at Frank’s Design Studios. He learnt a lot about textile design from Julius Frank, who would help him considerably in his artistic development.

Power and Glory Alan Lowndes
‘The Power and the Glory,’(23” x 32” oil on canvas)

Lowndes rented a small studio on the top floor of Bamford House in Market Square, Stockport. He covered the walls with postcards of Matisse, Chagall and the Fauves. The Fauves were an important influence for the Expressionists. According to a friend, Lowndes spent a lot of time copying these artists.

In 1949 he painted, ‘The Power and the Glory,’(23” x 32” oil on canvas) a scene of a power station and a church that he could see from his studio window.  This painting shows his transition from an ‘English Water Colourist’ to a more mature Expressive Style.

His full time career as a painter started after he met the Manchester Crane Gallery owner Andras Kalman. Lowndes was a regular lunchtime visitor to the gallery and one day he asked Kalman to look at his work. Kalman exhibited several of Lowndes paintings in his 3rd exhibition alongside Lucien Freud and John Craxton. The Guardian art critic, John Willett wrote on April 1st 1950, Of the five painters exhibiting this month at the Crane gallery, Manchester, the most interesting are not Freud and Craxton but Stephen Gilbert and Alan Lowndes.

Often short of money Lowndes was fortunate to be represented by the Crane Gallery.

In 1952 the Crane Gallery held a Lowndes exhibition. Several paintings were sold to famous film stars and film directors. Charles Laughton bought many works and “opened” a Lowndes Gallery in his home in Los Angeles.

PZ63 St Ives Harbour Gateway Gallery

After these successes Lowndes worked for a time as a scenic artist at the Repertory Theatre. He hated the work. So in the summer of 1955 he visited St Ives for the first time. He stayed at Patrick Heron’s house at Zennor. His early Cornish subjects were quaysides, fishing boats and local people. However, he felt he could paint more in Stockport and moved back in 1956.

Later that year he went to stay with John Willett and his wife in Normandy. He stayed a couple of years.

Alan Lowndes Two clowns one midget, Oil, Gateway Gallery.

He joined a circus for a month in 1959 and many of his works are of circus scenes. Later that year he obtained a place at the Karolyi Foundation in Vence in the South of France. Kalman was not impressed with most of Lowndes’ work painted at Vence. He wrote to Lowndes urging him to stay true to his successful style of Manchester painting. Lowndes agreed with the criticism. While at Vence he met and married Valerie Holmes. After honeymooning in Normandy they moved to St Ives.

They bought a small fisherman’s cottage at 18, The Digby and had three children. Lowndes painted well, inspired by the sea and the socialising at the Sloop. There were often twenty artists at lunch discussing art including Patrick Heron, Sir Terry Frost, Peter Lanyon and Willie Barns-Graham.

The Pawnbroker 1975 by Alan Lowndes 1921-1978
Alan Lowndes The Pawnbroker 1975 Lithograph on paper Tate Collection

In 1961 Kalman held an exhibition that was a great success and many pictures were sold. Almost all the paintings in the exhibition depicted Northern scenes or the circus. Several National newspapers made favourable comparisons with Lowry. Lowndes knew and admired Lowry but felt all they had in common was that they painted similar scenes in the same part of the country.

While in St Ives he became great friends with Sir Terry Frost. They had a great admiration for each other’s paintings. Frost was abstract in style and Lowndes was figurative. Frost described the brilliance of Lowndes’ figures stating that he could recognise all the figures in a Lowndes’ painting even if they had their backs to him, so exact was Lowndes’ observation of the way they moved and held themselves.

In 1970 the family moved again to Gloucestershire. Lowndes died there in 1978.

All his life he continued to paint the scenes of Stockport. In an unpublished article in 1978 he wrote, I paint people and scenes which can be recognised as such, even if the accuracy can be disputed, I have no interest in photographic detail.

Reference: Riley jonathan, Alan Lowndes. Construction Arts Ltd. 2010


Roger Hilton, CBE. 1911 -1975 Researched by Angela Ball

Roger Hildesheim was born in Northwood, Middlesex in 1911. The family name was changed to Hilton during the First World War due to anti German feeling.

He trained at the Slade School of Fine Art from 1929 – 1931, and then studied in Paris.  Initially his work was mainly figurative and he had a much acclaimed solo exhibition at the Bloomsbury Gallery in 1936.

In the Second World War he served in the Royal Commandos, was captured and spent the following three years as a prisoner of war (as did his friend and fellow painter Terry Frost). His first solo exhibition at the Bloomsbury Gallery in 1936 was much acclaimed, and brought critical attention.   He served in the Royal Commandos in the Second World War (1940 -42), was captured and spent the following three years as a prisoner of war, (as did his friend and fellow painter Terry Frost.)

oi oi oi
Oi, Yoi, Yoi Roger Hilton 1963 Tate Collection
Composition in Orange, Black and Grey 1951-2 by Roger Hilton 1911-1975
Composition in orange black & grey 1951 Tate Collection

After the war he trained as a school teacher, subsequently teaching at the Central School of Art & Design between 1954 -1956.   Having initially been seen as a figurative artist, in the early 1950s he became a pioneer in the Abstract Movement which emanated from St. Ives, and was part of a group that included Terry Frost and William Scott; similarities between their work – especially with the latter – have been noted by some art critics/writers. He began to paint increasingly with the St Ives school, renting a studio in Newlyn every year, and becoming a member of the Penwith Society .

(c) DACS; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Peguod 1967 Government Art Collection

At the time abstract art had many enemies but very few friends.  Initially his paintings were considered more radical than anything seen before; it has been stated that Hilton liked to say that an artist was “a man swinging out into the void” as though each painting was an exploration into the unknown.  However he gradually began to incorporate figure suggestions into his painting.   He wrote to Terry Frost:  “I am tired of non-figuration. I am in future going to introduce if possible a markedly human element in my pictures.   I’m not going to (be) afraid of figuration any more. I feel now this tiresome dichotomy had ended.”

(c) DACS; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Figure,” 1955. Oil painting, 29 x 19ms.” Cornwall Council Schools Art Collection

“Figure”, (the painting in this exhibition) was painted in 1955, when his first marriage was breaking down and it was a turbulent time in his life. He continued to paint annually with the St. Ives’ School, but did not wish to be associated too closely with it.   In 1965 Hilton moved to live fulltime in Botallack, near St. Just with his second wife, Rose (Phipps), who, since his death has been recognised as a well-respected artist in her own right.   In 1964 he won the UNESCO Prize at the Venice Biennale, and in 1968 was awarded a C.B.E.

Foliage with Orange Caterpillar 1974 by Roger Hilton 1911-1975
. Foliage with orange caterpillar 1974 Tate Collection

Hilton’s last years were spent as an invalid. Years of heavy drinking had taken its toll.   He was bedridden with a muscular disease and could only use one arm.  During this time he returned to the figurative style of his early years, painting childlike subjects such as boats, animal, horse and carts using gouache on paper and producing what have been described as some of his most colourful works.


“Hilton, Roger” Oxford Dictionary of Art & Artists 2009 Oxford Reference Online.

(www.independent entertainment/exhibitions).

BBC – Your Paintings – Roger Hilton

Anthony Eric Giles 1925 – 1994

Clay Wagons, Burngullow’ by Anthony Eric Giles 1984
Clay Wagons, Burngullow 1984 Mixed Media, Tony Giles Cornwall County Schools Art Collection
January 1991, 50008 Thunderer comes off the Drinnick Mill line at Burngullow Junction with the Pathfinder Tours 1Z16 ‘Cornish Centurion’ railtour (Martin Loader’s Railway Photographs)

Tony Giles was born in Taunton and loved trains from early childhood. His father was an engine driver and Tony delighted in travelling in the leading carriage from Taunton to Penzance. This painting is taken from the bridge at Burngullow Junction. It is near St Austell on the mainline to Plymouth where a line branches off to Drinnick Mill to the China Clay Works and is well documented by railway enthusiasts.

William Cookworthy
Clay wagons can leave the branch line and enter the Burngullow storage area to await a path to Par docks. These are being pulled by William Cookworthy named after the man who found China Clay in Cornwall. Copyright Sid Sponheimer

It is interesting to see the photograph taken from the same spot: the bridge on the right.

Boats in Harbour Tony Giles
Boats in Harbour by Tony Giles (

On leaving school Tony Giles worked as a cartographic draughtsman for the Admiralty Hydrographic Office for 18 years during which time he taught himself to paint. In 1961 he moved to St Agnes in Cornwall where he was soon recognized as a powerful landscape painter. He continued to be inspired by man-made landscapes throughout his life.

Bedruthan Steps Tony Giles
Bedruthan Steps by Tony Giles (

Many of his landscapes move towards the abstract but he maintains a strong sense of place. The forms of the landscape are simplified and blocked often contrasted with brilliant light. The feel and character of the subject becomes far more important than traditional perspective and realism.

Landscape In Grey by Tony Giles (

Landscape in Grey and Wheal Music in particular are reminiscent of the work of Peter Lanyon in their sweeping lines, views from above and, in the latter, the womb-like forms.

Wheal Music Tony Giles
Wheal Music by Tony Giles (

In the painting below, Tony Giles is looking down on Porthtowan from the ruins of the  tin mining industry. It is enfolded by the valley sides, protected from the sea. Today his reputation continues to grow as his work becomes increasingly valued by collectors. For other information about Burngullow:

Roy Walker, James Van Hear and Naomi frears

(c) Dr Nicholas Van Hear (son); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
The Beach No. 2 by James Van Hear Cornwall Council Schools Art Collection

Three of the artists whose work we will see at The Castle, Bude from Dec 27th through January 2015 are Roy Walker, James Van Hear and Naomi Frears. Unfortunately it was impossible to find anything about James Van Hear but this little collage work above calledThe Beach 2 is quite intriguing in rich blue and red with sand. It was painted on copper in 1965 and is 18 x 13cm. The artist died in 1991.

The other two artists that I chose to study, Roy Walker and Naomi Frears both have etchings included in the exhibition that they first made as part of a portfolio of 10 etchings by different artists that were sold to raise money for the building of the Tate St. Ives. £18000 was raised this way.

Evening Breeze’ by Roy Walker 1990 

Evening Breeze, 1990, Etching by Roy Walker, owned by Cornwall Council Schools Art Collection

Roy Walker was a painter and printmaker. He became Director of the Penwith Print Workshop. As well as making his own prints he helped to make prints for many of Cornwall’s leading artists including Bryan Pearce and John Wells. He developed new printmaking techniques including the use of steel as an etching plate.

In his work he had a love of form, colour and light and shapes that he used recurrently  He was drafted into National Service in 1954 and the theme of flight would  constantly reappear in his later work.

He was renowned for his figurative work and his etchings.

Roy Walker made an outstanding contribution to the arts in Cornwall and particularly in St Ives where he achieved an impressive reputation as an artist, painter and printmaker.

Hi work is exhibited widely including London, Germany, Holland, Saudi Arabia and USA.

His work was commissioned by Tate St Ives. 

Roy refused to be confined by the usual artistic restraints and was always searching for different ways to express himself. Although he was especially renowned for his figurative work and etchings, his artistic style was totally eclectic. He was continually experimenting with different mediums and styles. His later work even began to exceed the confines of his studio, as he worked on a larger and larger scale. 

World Cup’ by Naomi Frears 1990

World Cup, 1990, Naomi Frears, Etching, owned by Cornwall Council Schools Art Collection

Naomi Frears studied at Sunderland College from 1982-1986, and won a Printmaking prize. Her paintings now borrow from her printmaking in that she ignores rules of painterliness preferring to bring the image in a concrete form akin to  a printmaking language.

She currently works from Porthmeor studios at St. Ives. The way that she works is a trial and error kind of way. She makes many drawings and selects images for the painting. There might be several other images embedded in the image until she achieves a rightness, but the image she ends up with is one that is brief and to the point. She is also concerned to get it graphically right.”

Just as writers constantly jot observations in notebooks so Naomi relies on her sketchbook. The work shown is an early work. 

Now she exhibits widely including London and USA. She is currently exhibiting at the Newlyn Gallery  until 3rd January and at the Falmouth Gallery until Jan 15th

The work of Naomi Frears is very influenced by the love she has for her family and her husband’s head and figure is a constant theme. 
Like graffiti or the half-obliterated fragments of a fresco, Frearsimages lie embedded in the physical surface of her paintings.

Poetically brief and to the point, they convey a wonderful tenderness… The images Naomi Frears uses come from her never-ending search, mapped out in sketch books, among people and scenes around her or, just as likely, from Giotto, from films or Greek sculpture. She is hungry for images all the time. ” Elizabeth Knowles from her essay


Kate Nicholson researched by Frances Hill-Smith

Kate Nicholson; (c) Kate Nicholson; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
St. Ives Crabber, 1949, Oil on board, Cornwall Council Schools Art Collection

Born in Cumbria in 1929, Kate Nicholson is the daughter of artists Ben and Winifred Nicholson and step-daughter of Barbara Hepworth.  She began studying at Bath Academy of Art in 1949, where Peter Lanyon was one of her tutors.  This painting, done at that time, has echoes of the faux-naif style seen in works by her parents and Christopher Wood in the 1920s.  The view is from St. Ives looking across the bay to Godrevy lighthouse in the distance.  On completing her studies in 1954, Nicholson taught for a couple of years in Totnes before moving to St.Ives and becoming a member of the Penwith Society of Arts.  Since 1957, she has worked from her studio at Porthgwidden, St. Ives and enjoyed inspiration from other coastlines, especially the Hebrides.

Bryan Pearce (1929 – 2007)

Bryan Pearce (1929-2007)

Dafodills and Ginger Jar 1991 screenprint
Dafodills and Ginger Jar 1991 screenprint

Bryan Pearce was born in St Ives, Cornwall in 1929.  His father was a butcher and a rugby player, and his mother was a keen amateur painter.  Nature and nurture are a theme that runs through his life.   Pearce had the genetic condition Phenylketonuria,.  In 1929, the condition was unknown, and as a result, Bryan experienced intellectual impairment and other health problems, and so attended a school for children with special needs.

St Ives has a long tradition of fine painting, and was the home of the naïve artist/fisherman Alfred Wallis (1855-1942).  As a teenager, Bryan was encouraged by his mother and other artists to paint.   His  talent recognised,   he attended the St Ives School of Painting during his twenties.  Importantly, Leonard Fuller’s School welcomed both novice and professional artists, and had a commitment to inclusion.

Bryan Pearce

The turning point in Bryan Pearce’s career came in 1957 when he started painting in oils, and he began to exhibit soon after. Two years later he had his first solo exhibition at the Newlyn Gallery.    Although he painted slowly, producing perhaps one picture a month, he had a long and very successful career, exhibiting throughout England.  Late in life, he made etchings and his work was also sold in the form of  limited-edition screen prints.  His work has been bought by both major public collections and private collectors.

Mostly Bryan Pearce painted his own home town of St Ives.   He would take long walks around the area, and come back to paint sunny scenes, full of vivid colour, reminiscent of Matisse or perhaps of modernist stained glass.  However, Pearce himself did not study other artists, and his style was his own, not the result of external influences.   Nor was he bothered by art-world politics.   One obituary suggested that he was:

“a visionary artist of a quite particular kind, whose distinction had to do with the solitary nature of his artistic experience and the use he made of a profound creative solitude in the midst of a world experienced with preternatural vividness. That enforced and productive apartness is not to be confused with social solitude or loneliness; it was, rather, the necessary condition of his imaginative freedom and his peculiar talent.”

BP St Ives BP washing



Whereas other St Ives artists sometimes struggled to achieve authenticity, his mentor Peter Lanyon said:

 “It is necessary to accept these works as the labour of a man who has to communicate this way because there is no other.”

Bryan’s mother abandoned her own work to support her son. He was also guided by other significant figures, such as the art historian Sir Alan Bowness who said of him:

 “a therapy has become a profession… This has given his work particular innocence that, in the nature of things, can’t be corrupted by self-consciousness”.   

Bryan Pearce was undoubtedly provided with the security and support that he needed to become a major painter.  He remained in the family home for the rest of his life, supported by full time assistants after his mother’s death in 1997.  Benefiting from shelter, and the support of a local artistic community, he was able to devote himself to his art for fifty years, dying aged 77 on 22 January 2007.  The following month, a major exhibition of his work was held at Tate St Ives.

His art and talent were fostered by the unique community within which he grew up, and that recognized him as an artist like any other.  His painting made him happy, and has made many other people happy as a result.

Bryan Pearce earned his fame more for what he did than for who he was.  One of the leading naïve artists of the twentieth century, his oil paintings now hang in the Tate Gallery and at Kettle’s Yard, and he has been the subject of no less than three biographies.

Of particular interest is the Bequest he left to the people of Cornwall

Bryan Pearce Bequest

Sir Ferrers Vyvyan, Chairman of the Royal Institute of Cornwall’s Board of Trustees, formally accepted a bequest by the late Bryan Pearce on Thursday 6 September, 2007 in the Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro.

Sir Alan Bowness, one of Bryan’s Trustees and an executor of his estate, said: ‘Bryan was very aware of his Cornish ancestry, and proud of the fact that his family had always lived in St Ives. From an early date his mother, Mary Pearce, kept back some of his best pictures in the hope that they would eventually be given to the people of Cornwall for their enjoyment. Bryan’s Trustees and beneficiaries are delighted that this now substantial collection of his work has been accepted by the Royal Institution of Cornwall.’

The collection reflects the artist’s work from his earliest watercolours made at the St Ives School of Painting in the early 1950s to the present time, including the last oil painting that he was working on in December 2006, only a few weeks before his death in early January 2007.


It comprises nine watercolours, twenty-seven oil paintings, two pen and ink drawings, three conté crayon drawings and eleven etchings. Also included in the bequest is a portrait of the artist by Jason Walker painted from life in 2005 and a bronze head made by the Australian sculptor Barbara Tribe in 1976.

At the same time the bequest includes several photographs of Bryan as well as a few objects that he used regularly in his still-life drawings and paintings.

‘We are delighted that Bryan Pearce made this bequest’, said Lucinda Middleton, the Royal Cornwall Museum’s Fine and Decorative Art Curator. ‘It is a very important body of work which, thanks to his generosity, will now be accessible to members of the public

(taken from news page)


Further reading

Ruth Jones, The Path of the Son (1976)

Marion Whybrow, Bryan Pearce: a private view (1985)

Janet Axten, The Artist and His Work (2004)

Some parts of this post are taken from with thanks to