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Elizabeth Lamorna BIRCH

1904—1990

Born in Flagstaff Cottage, Lamorna  (the eldest daughter of Samuel John Lamorna BIRCH and Houghton VIVIAN), she was often painted by the artists of the Newlyn colony and their visitors (such as Laura KNIGHT and Harold KNIGHT, Thomas Cooper GOTCH, Augustus Edwin JOHN, etc).   Mornie and her sister Joan both showed handicrafts, along with their mother, at the Newlyn Art Gallery in the 1920s and 30s, and both were to develop talents in watercolour and oils.   Her beloved Lamorna featured regularly in her work, and she also specialised in flower painting. She was educated at Badminton School, Bristol, taking some classes at Bristol School of Art.

In 1939 Mornie and her husband Jimmy (James Lennox Kerr, the writer) returned to Cornwall from Scotland where they had settled, and where she was taking further art lessons in Paisley. Following her mother's death in 1944, she and Jimmy ran the family home of Flagstaff on the cliffs above Lamorna Cove, looking after her father there until his death in 1955.

A friend to many artists of her father's circle, including a lifelong friendship with Laura KNIGHT, she exhibited regularly in mixed shows at Newlyn.  She was Chairman of Council (1953-5), becoming Hon President following her father's death that same year. 

Jimmy died in 1963, and she continued painting, setting up a teaching and painting circle which continued under her supervision until her death at Lamorna in 1990.

Their work was displayed annually at the Lamorna Village Hall, where the series continues to the present day.  An E L Kerr Archive is kept in the WCAA, gathered for a small Retrospective mounted at the Jamieson Library, Newmill by friends in 1990. Carn Gloose was exhibited at Penlee (2002), and Still life with Jug was sold in 2004 at the Queens Hotel, Penzance Auction for the WCAA Establishment Fund.

A biographical memoir, In Time & Place, Lamorna, was published in 1994 by her friend and pupil, Melissa Hardie, and is based upon her long life among the artists of the West Cornwall area.  It is largely abstracted within Artists in Newlyn & West Cornwall: Dictionary and sourcebook (2009). She is buried near her father and her friend Pog YGLESIAS in the burial ground at Paul.

Her son Adam KERR, and his artist wife Judith KERR, keep the artistic traditions of Flagstaff Cottage, Lamorna alive for the area, with Adam serving as President of the Lamorna Society of Artists who work and exhibit together in the Valley.  Many of Mornie's former pupils are working today.

Houghton BIRCH

1869—1944

Houghton was a daughter of the prominent local mine-owning family, the Vivians of Camborne, and was born there. She was educated in Truro and qualified in London as a nursery nurse.   Returning to Cornwall, she wrote asking Samuel John Lamorna BIRCH for painting lessons (1902) and then married him in August of the same year. He gave her the affectionate name of Mouse. Her paintings were mostly in watercolour and contain detailed studies of rocks, trees, landscapes and coastal scenes.

She was mother to Joan Houghton BIRCH and Elizabeth Lamorna BIRCH, both also painters, and made and exhibited crafts and the occasional painting at the Newlyn Art Gallery (with her husband and daughters), and two landscapes at the St Ives Society of Artists (1935).  In 1937 at NAG she exhibited a painting Carn Barges. A work in pencil, Cottage at Lamorna (Private Collection), was exhibited at Penlee House (2002).  An outlet for her craftwork and that of her daughters and their friend, Pog YGLESIAS, was their 'craft shop' set up - mainly during the summers - at the bottom of the drive leading up to Flagstaff Cottage in Lamorna. It was more a creative venture than a lucrative one, adding to the sense of community Lamorna always engendered.

Joan Houghton BIRCH

1909—1993

Born at Lamorna, the second daughter of Samuel John Lamorna BIRCH and Houghton VIVIAN, Joan also appears with Mornie as a model child in paintings by the Newlyn artists. She herself painted landscapes and coastal scenes in oil and watercolour, and married John Paxton-Petty in 1934, the same year in which she submitted a painting to the RA, which was accepted.

Her earlier years were spent in Lamorna, where she worked together with her mother and sister on crafts and toys that they sold in the summer months at the 'shop' at the bottom of their driveway. She emigrated to Australia with her husband in 1946, and was visited by her father in his Australasian travels. She died there, three years after her sister's death in Lamorna.

Lionel Lea Townley BIRCH

1858—1930

Born in 1858 at Bramshall, nr Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, Lionel and his wife Constance Mary BIRCH built their own home 'La Pietra' in Newlyn. The artist assisted with tuition in the early days of the Forbes School of Painting. Crozier (1904) noted: "An important feature of student life at Newlyn is the sketching class, which meets on three afternoons a week, under the able direction of Mr Lionel Birch, himself an artist of no mean repute and a frequent exhibitor at the Royal Academy."   

Birch also served as the Vicar's Senior Warden at St Peter's Church, Newlyn, and wrote a feature for the Parish Magazine called 'Notes from the Studios'. In the NAG exhibitions over the years he exhibited well, and in October 1898 sold two paintings to the Bonham Carter family staying at the Queens Hotel in Penzance. The couple moved to Whimple in about 1911, and later Ottery St Mary in Devon. He died, age 71, on April 16, 1930, in Ewell, near Epsom, Surrey (GRO), his wife having predeceased him.

Samuel John Lamorna BIRCH

1869—1955

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.

 

  

 

 

Colin BIRCHALL

Colin Birchall creates powerful, heavily textured abstract works on canvas and wooden panels. These attempt to convey the experience of being in the landscape of west Penwith as a participant rather than a detached observer.

Jenny BIRCHALL

Jenny Birchall's paintings on wood take a lighthearted look at summer visitors to Cornwall in all their diversity.

Margaret BIRD

1864—1948

Born in Muswell Hill, London (30 March,1864 GRO), she studied at the Slade School before briefly attending the Academie Julian in Paris in 1889. She was recorded as a Newlyn resident in the 1891 Census, living at Church Lane, Mount Vernon, and exhibited at the Dowdeswell Exhibition of 1892 with the Cornish painters.

In Newlyn she shared a studio with another woman artist, Amy ATKINSON, but also continued to exhibit from her home in Haywards Heath, Sussex. She died in Cambridge on 11 September, 1948, age 84 (GRO).

Michael BIRD

Author on arts-related topics.

Myles BIRKET-FOSTER

1825—1899

Originally a wood engraver and book illustrator who took up watercolours to paint rustic subjects, he did a steel line engraving of St Michael's Mount in c1850.