Art and culture in Penzance


Penzance and Newlyn have a long association with all forms of art and culture.

Penlee House entrance, Penzance

Penlee House entrance, Penzance

One of the most notable is the Newlyn School of Art which was formed in the late 19th Century.  A group of artists settled in Newlyn to paint in the so called ‘french way’.  This meant painting their subjects in a more informal way, often in their own homes or on many occasions outside – ‘plein air’ painting.
This often required ingenuity and determination – Stanhope Forbes, recognised as the ‘father’ of the Newlyn school of artists, while painting ‘Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach’ spoke of ‘what I endured fighting with the east wind before a large canvas on the cold and sloppy beach between Newlyn and Penzance’.  Another of the artists Norman Garstin remarked ‘your work cannot really be good unless you have caught a cold doing it!’  Local people got used to being asked to sit as models – some faces appear again and again in the pictures.
The Penlee House Museum and Gallery situated in Penlee Park, Morrab Road, Penzance, has a fine collection of original Newlyn School paintings.  Many of the settings used in the paintings can be easily recognised today – Abbey Slip, Market House and the harbour at Newlyn.
The tradition of painting is continuing in the heart of Newlyn with the opening in 2011 of the Newlyn School of Art at the Old Board School, Newlyn,  the school offers a wide menu of classes in drawing, painting, stone carving etc.
[[Image:Penzance ArtandCulture1.JPG|right|300px|Flags flying on the Promenade for the Golowan Festival 2013|Flags flying on the Promenade for the Golowan Festival 2013]] The Newlyn Art Gallery, and its sister gallery The Exchange, are the face of contemporary art in the area.  They offer a wide range of national and international art from both established and emerging artists.  There are talks, seminars, workshops, and classes.
There are numerous smaller Galleries in the area showing both traditional and contemporary artists.  You are sure to find something you like!

Other art forms are well represented in Penzance.  There are a wide variety of musical groups and societies which enjoy great support – every thing from choral groups such as the Penzance Choral Society and Penzance Ladies Orpheus Choir, through to more traditional music and song.  Newlyn Male Voice Choir, Mousehole Male Voice Choir and the Trelawney Singers are but three of the more well known.

Acorn Theatre premises, Penzance

Acorn Theatre premises, Penzance

The performing arts are also enthusiastically supported in Penzance and the surrounding area. There are several theatre and amateur dramatics societies.  Of particular note is the Minack Theatre at Porthcurno,  This open air theatre is set spectacularly on the cliffs above Porthcurno beach.  What other theatre do you know where you can watch both an interesting production and the basking sharks in the bay at the same time?  Penlee Park in Penzance also has an open air theatre which stages a wide variety of productions during the summer period – from Jazz in the Park to Chekhov!

Literary inspiration has been drawn by many from the wonderful scenery and life which surrounds Penzance.  Storytelling has long been a tradition and has experienced an upsurge in interest in recent years.  Tales of pirates, giants and mermaids to thrill the children and reminiscences of times past, sometimes in the Cornish dialect, for the adults.

West Cornwall remains a magnet for artists and creative people of every type.