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Brushes with the Birmingham Boys

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: June 16, 2011

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OPENED by John Scott Martin, president of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, with Roger Langley, author of Walter Langley:

From Birmingham to Newlyn among the many present, there can be little doubt that the current exhibition Walter Langley and the Birmingham Boys at Penlee House Gallery and Museum will be another crowd-puller.

While his choice of subject matter may not have been the happiest, of all the members of the Newlyn Society of Artists, Walter Langley was surely the most honest in his approach and response to the Newlyn of his day.

He was born in Birmingham in 1852, the best of the several Birmingham Boys who were to make their way to Newlyn in the late 19th century.

A working class lad, he identified with the hardships of the fishermen of Newlyn and was fully aware that while their calling entailed a certain nobility, it also demanded courage and tenacity.

Whether looking at The Old Pilot, A Fisherman's Son or The Fisher Girl Sewing, he is one of the few of the Newlyn School who never failed to overlook the dirt beneath the broken finger nails of his subjects, the lines of worry in their faces, the boots worn by both men and women, all the signs of the prevailing poverty, the tough present and the bleak future, with pictures in which one cannot only see,but also smell, the Newlyn that was. The exhibition runs until September 10, and it is worth noting that Roger Langley's book Walter Langley and the Birmingham Boys, published by Sansom & Co at £24.95, is available from Penlee House during the show at the special price of £20.

John Scott Martin, president of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, with Langley's Between The Tides.

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