Born in Caherconlish, County Limerick, Republic of Ireland (28 August, 1847), the son of Mary (née Moore) and Captain William Garstin. From a difficult childhood (his mother’s paralysis and invalidism, and his father’s suicide), he was brought up by loving aunts. After school at Victoria College, Jersey, he had short-term ‘trys’ at engineering, architecture and finally diamond hunting in South Africa (becoming a close friend of Cecil Rhodes), becoming involved in the Cape government and journalism.
In 1880 he began his art training at the Royal Academy in Antwerp with Verstraete, and then studied at Carolus-Duran’s Academy in Paris (1882-84), beginning to exhibit in British galleries during that period. Always he wrote, and recorded his reactions, journalism proving an excellent avocation throughout his life and one which he would pass on to his sons, Crosbie GARSTIN and Denis Garstin. His articles in The Studio and other magazines thread their way through the history of the Newlyn colony, always supportive of his working colleagues and their art. His daughter, Alethea GARSTIN would follow his other route and take-up art.
He married Louisa ‘Dochie’ Jones in 1886 after his ‘grand tour’ to Venice, Italy, Morocco and Spain, all of which added up to a large portfolio of work. The couple settled in Newlyn where many of his former colleagues from Antwerp had already set up, and where the general aversion to academic art agreed with his individualist and realist inclinations. In 1886 they lived at Mount Vernon, in Newlyn, though by 1895 they had moved into Penzance.
He was on the Provisional Committee of artists when NAG opened 22nd October 1895, and worked steadily with it over many years (see his Introduction to the Whitechapel Spring Exhibition of 1902, repr Hardie 2009), showing the work of artists from the various West Cornwall colonies. He regularly took groups of art students to his favourite painting haunts on the Continent, and he was a popular and much loved teacher.
Of his many titles, The Rain, it raineth every day (Penlee House Collection) is undoubtedly one of his finest. A portrait of Mary Augusta Carlidna Bolitho was exhibited at Penlee House, Penzance in 2005 (Private Collection). Norman Garstin died on 22 June, 1926, age 78, in Penzance (GRO).
Painter of genre and exotic scenes in oil and watercolour; teacher, arts journalist
works and access
Likeness: Norman Garstin, by Stanhope Forbes (Penlee House Collection)
Access to work: Penlee House, Penzance; Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro; Plymouth Art Gallery; Bristol; Hull University; Manchester; Tate; Cork, Republic of Ireland
Plymouth Art Gallery houses Among the Pots and Church of St Michèle, Quimperlé, and the RCM, Truro has Her Signal, and A Steady Drizzle.
Penlee House has his most famous work: The Rain, it raineth every day;
NAG from 1895 (Provisional Committee prior to Opening)
NSA from 1895
Canney & Hopkins (1978) Two Impressionists - Father and Daughter Exhibition catalogue
Garstin (Jan 1891) ‘A New Caricaturist’ Art Journal (No 43: pp25-30)
Garstin (Aug 1897) ‘Tangier as a Sketching Ground’ Studio International (pp 177-82)
NG: ‘Studio-Talk’ about Newlyn: Issue 6 (Jan 1896) p 246; Issue 7 (Mar 1896) p 113; Issue 8 (Jun 1896) pp 43-5
Garstin, N (Mar 1902) 'Preface' to Spring Exhibition, 1902 at Whitechapel Art Gallery (Cornish Artists all), repr in Hardie (2009) pp61-4
Hale (1999) Norman and Alethea Garstin: A Brief Biography of Two Painters
Pryke (2005) Norman Garstin, Irishman and Newlyn Artist (with Catalogue Raisonne)
Tennyson-Jesse ‘Norman Garstin: An Interview’ The Paper Chase (Vol II, 1909)
Cornish Telegraph 25 Mar 1909;
Cross (1984) Shining Sands;
Dowdeswell Exhibition catalogue
Looking West Exhibition catalogue
Notts Exhibition Catalogue;
Green (1995) Artists at Home;
Graves RA Dictionary 1769-1904;
Hardie (1995) 100 Years in Newlyn: Diary of a Gallery;
Hardie (2009) Artists in Newlyn and West Cornwall
Johnson & Greutzner (1975) Dictionary of British Artists;
NAG Loan (1958) Exhibition catalogue
Newton et al (2005) Painting at the Edge;
Tovey (2003) Creating a Splash;
Tovey (2009) St Ives: Social History;
Wallace (2002) Under the Open Sky
Public Catalogue Foundation (PCF) Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly: Oil Paintings in Public Ownership
RWE (1992) Artists from Cornwall, 'Artist Profiles: Historical', pp 33-7