1869 - 1955
Sanctuary, Cliffs at St Justs, Cornwall

Oil on panel, signed lower right
Image size: 12 1/2 x 15 1/2 inches (32 x 39 cm)
Art Deco style frame



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This work is inscribed verso “Sanctuary, St Just, Cornwall”. It also comes with a sketch by the artist attached to the back.

This landscape looks across at a dominating vertical rock formation in St Justs, Cornwall, with the expanse of sea opening out to the horizon behind. The light from the sun wonderfully illuminates the rock, emphasising the collection of colours and tones that are contained within. These are then skilfully reflected by Birch on the shimmering surface of the shallows of the water just below, aside the cold shadows that are cast by the vast structure. On the left we see a swimmer perching on a boulder who is, similarly to us, admiring the natural form and its intricacies.

Samuel John Lamorna Birch

Samuel John Lamorna Birch was born in Egremont, Cheshire, on 7 June 1869. As a boy he moved to Manchester and later to Halton, near Lancaster, working in offices and mills. He painted at dawn or sunset, before and after his work hours. Birch was self-taught as an artist but he did spend a year in Paris at the Atelier Colarossi between 1895 and 1896. From 1889 he regularly visited Cornwall and was influenced by Stanhope Forbes, who had settled at Newlyn in 1884 and who founded the Newlyn School of Art in 1899 with his wife Elizabeth Adela Armstrong.

In 1897 Birch settled at St. Buryan moving in 1902 (the year of his marriage) to Lamorna, near Penzance. At this time there was an artist named Lionel Birch living in Newlyn and, at the suggestion of Stanhope Forbes, Samuel John Birch took the additional name of Lamorna in order to distinguish himself. A great deal of his work was carried out in Cornwall, but he did not confine himself to this area as he was a keen fisherman and he made frequent visits to Scotland, Wales, the North West of England and the West Country to indulge his twin passions of painting and fishing.

Birch established an excellent reputation and exhibited his work widely, including 227 pictures at The Royal Academy, where he exhibited for fifty consecutive years between 1905 and his death on 7 January 1955 at Lamorna.

He exhibited at the Royal Academy, the Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, the Manchester City Art Gallery and at the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolours. Works by Lamorna Birch can be found in the Tate Gallery, London.