Alfred Wallis

The Steamer

Artwork Detail

A retired Cornish fisherman who took up painting at the age of seventy, Alfred Wallis said, '. . . all I do is out of my memory. I do not go out anywhere to draw. It is what I have seen before . . . '. Using ship's paint and scrappy pieces of irregularly-shaped cardboard, hardboard and sailcloth, he drew and painted the seaside towns of Cornwall and his life at sea. Wallis had no artistic training or pretensions, but the fresh simplicity of his work was admired by artists who visited St Ives, including Christopher Wood and Ben Nicholson. As a result of their interest, two of Wallis's paintings were exhibited with the progressive Seven and Five Society in London. In 1948 The Steamer was part of Lucy Carrington Wertheim's generous gift to the Gallery - 154 works by modern British artists which hung in a special room and became the focus of spirited debate about the modern in art. While some visitors found the works upsettingly radical, the New Zealand Herald wrote that 'after a quarter of an hour among the new acquisitions, many visitors will be surprised to find the contents of the other rooms appearing staid and perhaps even rather commonplace'. Wertheim ran a gallery in London during the 1930s and she noted that Wallis had 'a special predilection for the ends and sides of Quaker Oats boxes'. (from The Guide, 2001)

The Steamer
Alfred Wallis
Production date
circa 1930
ships oil paint on cardboard (?)
565 x 444 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Lucy Carrington Wertheim, 1948
Accession no
No known copyright restrictions
International Art
Display status
Not on display

To find out which artworks are available for print requests and reproduction please enquire here. This service only applies to select artworks in the Gallery's collection.