A Charismatic Original Oil on Canvas: Beach Scene by Ernest Forbes (1877-1962), RBA.

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Origin: English
Period: Early Twentieth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1920
Canvas Height: 9 inches
Canvas Width: 12.5 inches


Painted in oils on canvas, depicting a sunny beach scene, with four main figures to the foreground and another four to the background. The painting is signed “Ernest Forbes” in the lower right corner in black oiled script and is presented in a simple wooden frame with gilt border. Verso the picture is marked again in pencil Ernest Forbes R.B.A.

The cheerful style of the painting is naive, the four main caricature figures giving the viewer a utopian British seaside vision. We see a captain sailor propositioning a rather pretty lady and a mother and child to the centre of the picture, the mother sitting, in a traditional striped deckchair is looking proudly at her son, who in turn is gesturing her towards the ocean. The wispy clouds are beautifully rendered amongst the simply painted sky; with the sea and the sand and making up the other two principal blocks of colour in the picture.

Born in 1877, Ernest Forbes was a painter, writer and cartoonist. Appointed the latter on the old "Yorkshire Evening News", where, as "The Hermit", his increasing skill as a caricaturist attracted attention beyond Yorkshire. Leaving Barwick, he took a large studio in Chelsea London where, for a short time, he enjoyed sudden fame through a series of brilliant caricatures of famous personalities for the "Illustrated London News".

Accepted by socialites, his work commanded high prices, but as a distinguished art critic wrote at the time: "Forbes is a supreme paradox. He is the antithesis of Chelsea, but lives there. He is by nature a strong, silent man, but he will talk by the hour. He has captured London's heart, but his own heart is elsewhere." And so it proved, as Forbes later returned to Yorkshire and produced a memorable series of pictorial articles for the "Yorkshire Post" entitled "This Mellow Shire". Living at Askwith after the last war, his affinity with the landscape and the dales folk is apparent in his best work. He died at the age of eighty-five in Harrogate.

Ernest Forbes was an artist who essentially turned his back on fame and fortune. If he hadn’t left London when he did then his art may well be more revered today; but this is unimportant when left to appreciate his work, and when looking at this picture one is faced with such a jolly and warming scene, that it is easy to see why Forbes is an underrated artist today.

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