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Samuel John Lamorna Birch

1869 - 1955

Samuel John Birch was born in Egremont, Cheshire, on 7th June 1869. As a boy he moved to Manchester and later to Halton, near Lancaster, working in an office or mill and painting at dawn or sunset before and after his work hours. As a result Birch was self-taught as an artist but he did spend a year in Paris at the Atelier Colarossi between 1895-96. From 1889 he regularly visited Cornwall and was influenced by Stanhope Forbes (1857-1947), who had settled at Newlyn in 1884 and who founded the Newlyn School of Art in 1899 with his wife Elizabeth Adela Armstrong. In 1897 Birch settled at St Buryan moving in 1902 (the year of his marriage) to Lamorna, near Penzance. At this time there was an artist named Lionel Birch living in Newlyn and at the suggestion of Stanhope Forbes, Samuel John Birch took the additional name of Lamorna in order to distinguish himself.

A great deal of his work was carried out in Cornwall, but he did not confine himself to this area as he was a keen fisherman and he made frequent visits to Scotland, Wales, the North West of England and the West Country to indulge his twin passions of painting and fishing. Lamorna Birch established an excellent reputation and exhibited his work widely, including 227 pictures at The Royal Academy, where he exhibited for fifty consecutive years between 1905 and his death on 7th January 1955 at Lamorna.

This magnificent painting dates from 1935/6 when Lamorna Birch was at the peak of his career, having just been elected a member of The Royal Academy in 1934. The view depicts Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the United Kingdom, from the north west with a tributary of the River Lochy in full spate and close by is Inverlochy Castle, built in 1863 by the 1st Lord Abinger and now a world famous luxury hotel. In September 1873 Queen Victoria spent a week sketching and painting at Inverlochy Castle during a visit to Balmoral and she wrote in her diaries 'I never saw a lovelier or more romantic spot'. Lamorna Birch has captured the atmosphere of one of the most famous views in Scotland with consummate skill.

Exhibited: Royal Academy, Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, Manchester City Art Gallery, Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours

Museums : Tate Gallery, London Back to list