Published 23rd May 2014
Samuel John Lamorna Birch (1869-1955) was a passionate painter and a passionate fly fisherman – two worthy pastimes. His love of fishing began as a boy in Cheshire, where he was born in 1869, but it was not until he reached his 20s, enjoying regular visits to Cornwall, that he established himself as an artist.
Under the influence of The Newlyn School and particularly Stanhope Alexander Forbes, Birch became the leader of the second generation of Newlyn artists that included Laura and Harold Knight, Alfred Munnings, Frank Gascoigne Heath and Stanley Gardiner. This group became known as the Lamorna Group with the young Birch adopting the name Lamorna to distinguish himself from a fellow artist called Lionel Birch. This was the same year, 1895, that he spent at the art school Atelier Colarossi in Paris.
Lamorna is a small valley leading down to a picturesque cove just south of Mousehole, where still today the light and the colours of the ocean are breathtaking. It is easy to see the attraction of the valley where Birch was able to fish the streams and take inspiration from the landscape and light around him. He established a studio half a mile inland from the cove and in 1902 moved to Flagstaff Cottage, the old harbour master's house, at the head of the bay. His passion and respect for the landscape shine through in his paintings, which are full of life and capture the warmth of the coast on a sunny day, or the freshness of a trout stream in the morning light.
In the painting sale at the beginning of July 2014, there is an oil by Birch which was bought from the artist in the early 20th century and has been in the same ownership ever since. The painting has two interesting titles on the reverse in the hand of the artist. On a label is the title The Making of a Garden, Lamorna and on the canvas is a faint title My Studio Garden. It was his wife Emily, nicknamed 'Mouse', who was the great gardener and at the end of the sub tropical looking garden is the artist's studio on the edge of the river. The painting is in superb original condition and is estimated at £2,000-£3,000.
Birch sounds like an interesting and charming man. Each year he and his wife took fishing holidays to Scotland or to the continent and they also visited New Zealand and Australia. On the occasion of the Queen's wedding to Prince Phillip in 1947, the people of Cornwall presented the couple with two paintings by Birch. When he died in his 80s in 1955 The Times obituary commented that he "was an athletic bearded man, looking very much younger than his years with the bright eyes and eager manner of a terrier, and was the best of companions in any grade of society."
The painting by Samuel John Lamorna Birch will be offered on 8th July 2014. To find out more details or to discuss selling a painting, please contact Dan Goddard.
Artist and Fly-Fisherman - Samuel John Lamorna Birch was written on Friday, 23rd May 2014.