Clarkson Stanfield

Here is the second Cornish connection picture located in the19th century European Gallery at the National Gallery of Victoria. This wonderful and exciting picture of "Mount Saint Michael, Cornwall" by Artist Frederick Stanfield.

Stanfield was by no means the first artist to select St Michael’s Mount as a subject. Steeped in myth, history and geological interest, the mount was an intriguing landmark, and its distinctive profile, disrupting the persistent line of the horizon, had provided artists and writers with a subject of topographic and human interest for many years.

Located off the Mount’s Bay coast in Cornwall, southern England, St Michael’s Mount is a tidal island of slate and granite rock, crowned by a medieval castle. The site is accessible by foot only at low tide when the pebbled causeway connecting it to the coastal town of Marazion is above sea level.

Clarkson Frederick Stanfield RA RBA was a prominent English painter who was best known for his large-scale paintings of dramatic marine subjects and landscapes. He was the father of the painter George Clarkson Stanfield and the composer Francis Stanfield.

In 1830 Mount St Michael, Cornwall was shown at London’s Royal Academy where is became the first of Clarkson Stanfield’s paintings to attract significant attention. Stanfield was a genuine rival to J. M. Turner in the field of marine painting. Stanfield’s painting was sold the following year, after it was re-exhibited at the British Institute, and it remained in private collections.

The National Gallery’s trustees had sought to acquire an example of Stanfield’s work for the fledgling collection as early as 1866, charging advisor Sir Charles Eastlake to act on their behalf. Unfortunately, Stanfield’s death the following year meant this did not eventuate until 1888, with the purchase of "The morning after Trafalgar". The larger and more impressive of the pair, Mount Saint Michael, Cornwall, was not acquired until almost fifty years later when it was presented to the National Gallery of Victoria in 1933 by J. A. Hartley.

Mount Saint Michael, Cornwall is among the most significant works in Stanfield’s collection and served as the catalyst for the advancement of his career.

Judy Wright

October 2022

Mount Saint Michael, Cornwall

A more modern-day picture of St Michael's Mount, Cornwall