Born Mirfield, Yorks, Alec Walker's first contact with Newlyn came about under the most romantic circumstances. Already established in Yorkshire as the manufacturer of Vigil silk, he advertised in 1912 for a poster and advertising designer. Kathleen EARLE ('Kay') replied and arranged to meet him in London with a portfolio of her work. Kay had been a student at the Stanhope FORBES School of Painting in Newlyn since 1910, and had already received commissions for illustration and poster work.
Alec was so impressed by her account of the lively Newlyn art colony that he travelled back to Cornwall with her the same day to see for himself. He was welcomed into their midst, immediately felt at home, and started sketching, encouraged by Ernest PROCTER and Harold HARVEY. He was appointed Yorkshire representative of the Federation of British Industry by Sir Charles Mandelberg, and in the 1914-18 War was exempted from war service to help run the family business in Yorkshire producing cloth for service uniforms.
In 1918 he married Kay and bought Myrtle Cottage in Newlyn, and in 1919 bought 'Sambo's Row' to convert to a textile works, importing plant and machinery from Yorkshire. Local labour was taken on, and in 1920 CRYSEDE was founded. From the Yorkshire works, now run by his brother Gerald, Vigil silk printed the designs and the garments were made up at Newlyn. In 1921 he became involved with Group X, a Vorticist revival. In 1923 he visited Paris and met Dufy and Zadkine who encouraged him to create his own designs, which were very successful.
He opened a retail shop at New Road, Newlyn, having 3,000 mail-order clients and customers in Paris, America and Australia. His fabrics gained a national reputation, and he invited Tom HERON to join Cryséde as manager. Larger premises were leased at St Ives, and the firm was transferred by Heron from Newlyn with Walker's agreement. In 1926 Cryséde became a Limited Company. Production increased, and further retail shops opened under Heron's direction; Walker continued to produce designs from his Newlyn studio. In 1929 there was a final breakdown of marriage. He also had a dispute with the Cryséde Board, suffered a nervous breakdown, and dismissed Tom Heron and other key members of staff. He was then dismissed by the Board on health grounds and had no contact with Cryséde for three years, spending much of his time hunting at Dulverton, Somerset. In 1931 he continued with his painting, submitting work to the RA. In 1933 he returned briefly to Cryséde as General Manager and produced some designs at the request of the Board. Between 1933-39 he retired from Cryséde, re-married, bought a farm in Yorkshire, bred horses and began collecting pictures. He returned to Cornwall, painting in watercolour and oils, and in 1950 moved to Falmouth, where he continued painting and collecting pictures.
Silk and textile print artist, oil and watercolour artist
works and access
Access to works: Penlee House, Penzance; RCM, Truro; WCAA
NAG December 1924 (Hand-block printed crepe-de-chine scarves); Independent Gallery, London One-man exhibition of textiles 1925; Victoria and Albert Museum; RA 1930; Olympia 1931; Wertheim Gallery, London Included in British Institute of Industrial Art Exhibition 1932
Berriman (1986) Arts and Crafts in Newlyn 1890-1930
Hardie (2009) Artists in Newlyn and West Cornwall (p291/2)
Hardie (editor) 100 Years in Newlyn/Diary;
Public Catalogue Foundation (PCF) Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly: Oil Paintings in Public Ownership
Lays Auctions (2010) Fine Art Sale Cat (inside cover) in 'Auction News' (illus)
Tovey (2010) Sea Change
Wallace Under the Open Sky;