AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award

Walter Langley, The Breadwinners, 1896

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award – Paintings and Photographs of Fisherfolk and Fishing Practices in West Cornwall, 1860-1910

The History of Art Department at Oxford Brookes University has obtained funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council for a doctoral studentship, tenable from October 2011. The award will be held in partnership with Penlee House Gallery and Museum, Penzance, for the purposes of collaborative doctoral research.

In the early 1880s a number of British artists, including Walter Langley and Stanhope Alexander Forbes, settled at Newlyn, a village on the Cornish coast which was one of the major centres of the fishing industry. Newlyn thus became one of the many artists’ colonies which flourished throughout Europe in the later decades of the nineteenth century. The term ‘Newlyn School’ has become well-established in art-historical discourse, and successive exhibitions at Penlee House Gallery and Museum, which houses one of the best collections of the artists’ work, have documented their lives and productions.

However, while much useful research has been done recently at a local level, it is 25 years since the Newlyn artists’ work was shown collectively in London (an exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery in 1985 being the last occasion). Since 1985, it has become apparent that the Newlyn artists were part of a larger group, including Charles Napier Hemy who lived in Falmouth, and an international group of artists who were based in St Ives, including Anders Zorn. In their interest in fisherfolk, the Newlyn artists were preceded by James Clarke Hook, who painted in St Ives, and by artists in other fishing villages around the British coast, such as Newhaven and Cullercoats. Recent academic studies of the painting of this period, and of artists’ colonies in particular, have shown how the themes adopted in Newlyn had wider resonance in debates about class, gender, race and empire. This is a propitious time, therefore, for a study of the Newlyn artists and their contemporaries at Falmouth and St Ives which will synthesise the findings of local and academic research, and present the early paintings of fisherfolk in a proper context.

The student will pay particular attention to the artists’ relationship with the local community, which was strongly Methodist and pro-temperance, and to their approach to the practical details of the fishermen’s lives and work, including fishing practices, costume, furniture and interiors. He/she will make use of two sources of information which have been under-researched to date: contemporary photographs and local newspapers. A range of questions will be proposed; the student may, of course, have others that he/she would wish to ask of the material. How realistic were the paintings? Did they record practices and conditions which were current and widespread, or were they selective, or did they choose themes which echoed earlier art? What was the relationship of the artists with the local fishing communities? Did they make much impact on the locals? Were they welcomed or resented? To what extent did they use real fisherfolk as models? What was the relationship of the paintings with contemporary photographs? Were photographers recording the same practices and subjects? Did the artists use photographs as part of their preparation for painting? What were the differences between the approaches of the photographers and those of the painters?

The research for this project will contribute to an updated, comprehensive account of the early years of the Newlyn school and their relationship with other artists working in West Cornwall. This will be produced by Penlee House Gallery and Museum, either as the catalogue of an exhibition or as a freestanding publication. The book/catalogue will be sold at Penlee House Gallery and Museum, and the research will be utilized in displays, temporary exhibitions and the online catalogue of the Penlee House collection.

The successful candidate will spend at least one month in each year working at Penlee House. Working alongside the Gallery’s professional staff will give him/her insight into the processes involved in planning and presenting an exhibition to the highest recognised standards, including issues around preventive conservation measures, art handing and packing and general security. He/she will be able to see the negotiation of loans from the earliest stages of research (e.g. contacting auction houses to track down particular items), through the negotiation of terms and conditions, to final logistical considerations, crating and delivery. The student will be given in-house art handling training and will be invited to shadow the Director and her team during the hanging of an exhibition, giving them the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the aesthetic and practical considerations of exhibition displays, balanced with the academic desire to maintain a logical thread.

Academic supervision of the doctoral thesis will be overseen by Dr Christiana Payne (History of Art Department, Oxford Brookes University). Additional supervision will be provided by Alison Bevan (Director, Penlee House Gallery and Museum) and Dr Matthew Craske (History of Art Department, Oxford Brookes University).

The Studentship

The standard tuition fees and maintenance grant will be paid by the AHRC (http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/).

Further Information

For further information about the studentship, please contact Dr Christiana Payne (cjepayne@brookes.ac.uk) or Charmian Hearne, postgraduate administrator (chearne@brookes.ac.uk).


In order to be eligible an applicant should normally have, or be studying for, a Master’s degree in History of Art or a related discipline. The award holder should be able to demonstrate skills in historical research and an awareness of object-based methodologies.

Applicants must meet the eligibility requirements set by the AHRC (http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/).

How to Apply
Please apply by filling in the Oxford Brookes University postgraduate research application form (http://www.brookes.ac.uk/brookesnet/graduateoffice/prospective/research/applying), according to the following instructions :

  • Specify the ‘programme details’ as ‘MPhil/PhD’
  •  For ‘subject area’ give ‘Paintings and Photographs of Fisherfolk and Fishing Practices in West Cornwall, 1860-1910’
  •  For School give ‘Arts and Humanities’
  •  Under ‘Proposed Research Programme’, instead of attaching a research proposal, attach a statement of the interests,strengths and skills you could bring to the project and specify the studentship as ‘AHRC collaborative doctoral studentship’
  • When the form asks ‘how do you intend to fund your studies ? ‘ tick ‘Research Council grant/studentship’
  • The ‘personal statement’ box at the end of the form does not require a personal statement as such, but should be used to give details of any particular factors that you think may be relevant to eligibility, the outcome of any application you have made in the current cycle for any other AHRC doctoral award (including details of any application of which the result is not yet known), and any other information that you want us to be aware of. Otherwise, please leave the ‘personal statement’ box empty.
  • Finally, use the checklist at the end of the form to ensure that you have provided all the documentation required.

Applications must be submitted by Tuesday May 31 with interviews provisionally planned to take place at Oxford Brookes University on Friday June 17.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s