Herring boats at Port Gaverne, CornwallZoom In
Herring boats at Gaverne versoZoom In

Herring Boats at Port Gaverne by Harry Greville Wood Irwin

Vigorously executed, with brush and palette knife, this bold composition reveals Greville Irwin at his best.

The sheltered inlet of Port Gaverne lies just to the east of Port Isaac, on the North coast of Cornwall. In the 19th century the hamlet was developed as a port handling coal, limestone and slate. It could accommodate the heavy sailing ketches which were too wide for Port Isaac - but in the harbour of Port Gaverne their breadth allowed them to rest upright, on the sand, between tides.

Fishing and fish-processing were also important industries in the vicinity of Port Isaac and Port Gaverne, with fish cellars processing up to 1000 tons of pilchards in a season. Serving the fishing industry were the distinctive Cornish luggers, small, clinker-built, sailing vessels.

The title of this painting is written verso. Nevertheless, the monumental character of the boats, which form the central motif of the picture - and the fact that they are apparently resting, upright, on the ground at the grassy mouth of the inlet - does suggest to us that these might not be herring luggers, but the remnants of the distinctive, Port Gaverne fleet of sailing ketches (!).

Oil on board
Size Unframed:
13½ins x 17½ins
34.5cms x 44.5cms
Size Framed:
17¼ins x 21¼ins
44cms x 54cms
Signed, lower left; inscribed verso with exhibition date 1935.

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