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Alfred Wallis
(1855 — 1942)

Alfred Wallis was a British painter. Born in Devon in 1855, Wallis was raised in Penzance, Cornwall. After leaving school, Wallis found work as an apprentice basket maker before becoming a mariner in the merchant service in the early 1870s. He sailed across the North Atlantic as a deep sea fisherman for several years before returning to Penzance to become a local fisherman to be closer to his family. In 1890, Wallis and his family moved to St Ives where he established himself as a marine stores dealer before briefly working for a local antiques dealer. It was perhaps here that his appreciation for art began.


After his wife’s death in 1922, Wallis began to teach himself how to paint. His self-taught experimentations amounted in an accomplished naïve style, which first came to light on the back of cardboard ripped from packing boxes. In 1928 Wallis’ unique approach to painting and his depictions of Cornish life on the sea were championed by the emerging artistic colonies in the area. The years that followed saw Wallis and his humble work propelled into a vibrant community of progressive artists. Despite the attention of fellow artists, Wallis lived a modest life painting distinctive compositions of life in his native Penzance until his death in 1942. His work can be seen today in the collection of the Tate St Ives.