Samuel John Lamorna BIRCH
Born in Wallasey, Wirral, Merseyside (GRO) on 7 June, 1869, Birch grew up in the Manchester area and is recognised as the 'father' of the Lamorna colony. In 1892, he moved to Cornwall, living first at Boleigh Farm. Stanhope FORBES and others suggested further training in France, and in 1895 he spent some months at Atelier Colarossi. Apart from this brief sojourn with lessons, Birch was wholly self-taught.
From his marriage to Houghton VIVIAN in 1902 until his death in 1955, he lived at Flagstaff Cottage, Lamorna, and painted the surrounding lands, cliffs, streams and terrains that he visited and loved. In many ways he was 'the man for all seasons' and is now acknowledged as the 'father of the Lamorna colony of artists' with his home, Flagstaff, serving as the centre and gathering place for artists and writers coming to the area. The many visitors would find him either working in his painting studio by the stream, or fishing in it; art and fishing were his passions and played 'equal first' in his life alongside his family.
Lamorna Birch, having selected the name Lamorna to distinguish him from friend Lionel Lea Townley BIRCH, also painting in Newlyn at the time, was an extremely prolific artist, taking every opportunity to travel to patrons and to paint to commission. Earning a living from painting, and tutoring was notoriously difficult, Birch was not one with inherited or family money as many of the gentleman-artists were. His work is represented in numerous public and private collections world-wide, and his picture St Ives, Cornwall (1938) was selected by the Chantrey Bequest and is in the Tate Britain Collection. In his lifetime he showed more than 500 paintings at the Fine Art Society, which reprinted many of them for commercial purposes.
Elected to the RWS (1914), an ARA in the 1920s and RA in 1934, Birch was the first RA to work in New Zealand, where he had travelled also to visit his daughter Joan Houghton BIRCH who had settled there (1937), receiving generous receptions from museum and gallery curators who purchased his work. The full story of his life is told masterfully by the author Austen Wormleighton, in A Painter Laureate, Lamorna Birch and his circle (1995). In 1997 the Falmouth Art Gallery mounted a retrospective exhibition which also toured to Plymouth. His work was selected for the RA's exhibition in 1988, The Edwardians and After, and the painting chosen was Our Little Stream, Lamorna. The scene remains the same today. The journal of The Lamorna Society is named The Flagstaff, and Birch's grandson, Adam KERR, is the Hon President of the working group of artists.