Alfred Wallis and James dixon
Alfred Wallis (1855-1942) and James Dixon (1887-1970) are two artists from different generations who lived and worked at different ends of the British Isles - Wallis in Cornwall, Dixon in the Tory Islands. However, there are similarities between their backgrounds, artistic principles and positions within the art world that make a joint exhibition both relevant and timely.
Both artists were fishermen by trade who took up painting late in Life and managed to become important figures within the history of 20th-century art with works in many major collections. Neither received any official art training which has led to them being described as 'primitives'. Both had close relationships with professional artists who introduced their work into the contemporary art world and helped secure their place in art history.
Alfred Wallis and James Dixon both lived in remote, rugged environments and this has played an important part in the way their work has been perceived. Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood, who 'discovered' Wallis in the 1930S, were both in Cornwall because of its' romantic, unspoiled connotations and their interest in Wallis was intensified by his intrinsic relationship with his environment. Tory Island equally presented a romantic retreat for Derek Hill, the British artist who has promoted Dixon. This association with the romanticism of the place has led to certain aspects of the artists works being celebrated above others, in particular their portrayal of the sea and boats.
More recently a reassessment of the attitudes and perceptions
held about these artists has begun, and in particular their introduction
to the systems of the art world. This exhibition aims to show
the work of James Dixon and Alfred Wallis in the light of these
changes of approach to their work and to take them out of the
bracket of 'primitivism'. The exhibition will also raise questions
around the definition of an artist, the systems of the art world
and urban perceptions of the sea and remote communities, as well
as providing an opportunity to look in detail at the work of
two singular artists in 20th-century British and Irish art.