Dorothea Sharp R.O.I., R.A.



Artist's Biography & Works For Sale


Dorothea Sharp was at the forefront of late nineteenth century British Impressionism, a movement whose most well-known exponents include James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), Walter Richard Sickert (1860-1942) and Philip Wilson Steer (1860-1942). For much of her life, she was involved with the artistic community in St Ives, Cornwall. Known for the freshness and spontaneity of her oils, she became particularly renowned for her sunny depictions of children at the seaside, and her plein air practice resulted in many delightful landscapes, flower pictures and naturalistic figure paintings. The title of Helen Entwisle's 2008 biography of Sharp (published by William Sessions Ltd), Rockpools and Sunshine, neatly encapsulates the predominantly joyful 'holiday' mood of her oeuvre.

Born in Dartford, Kent, Sharp began her formal artistic training at the age of 21 when a legacy of £100 from her late uncle enabled her to attend the art school run by Charles Edward Johnson (1832-1913) in Richmond, Surrey. She then studied at Regent Street Polytechnic under Sir David Murray (1849-1933) and George Clausen (1852-1944). The latter, whose work often features luminous depictions of children in lyrical outdoor settings, clearly influenced the subject matter Sharp was to favour for most of her career. A few years later, while in Paris, she encountered the work of the French Impressionists and began to develop her own impressionistic style, with its characteristic vigorous brushstrokes. The paintings of Claude Monet (1840-1926), in particular, were to have a profound and lasting impact on her bravura handling of colour and light.

Returning to London, she became actively involved in the Society of Women Artists, becoming an Associate Member in 1903 and a full member in 1908, and later serving as Vice-President. She was elected to the Royal Society of British Artists in 1907 and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters in 1922. Her work was exhibited at the Royal Academy and a number of galleries around the UK and overseas.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Sharp immersed herself in the artistic life of St Ives. Her permanent home was in London, but she spent her summers in Cornwall and settled there for a while in the late 1930s with the outbreak of World War II. She was to retain her studio at Porthmeor Beach for many years. It was in St Ives that Sharp found the subject matter for which she became so well known – the charming seashore imagery of sandcastles, seagulls, shrimping nets and children paddling – and her evocative paintings skilfully make use of Cornwall's famous coastal light. She met the artist Marcella Smith (1887-1963) in St Ives, and the two became lifelong friends, travelling around Europe and painting together. Sharp also travelled and painted with the Canadian artist Helen McNicoll (1879-1915).

Sharp was invited to become an honorary member of the St Ives Society of Artists in 1928, whose membership also included Sir John Arnesby Brown (1866-1955), Lamorna Birch (1869-1955), Robert Borlase Smart (1881-1947), Sir Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956), Bernard Fleetwood-Walker (1893-1965), Stanhope Forbes (1857-1947), Albert Julius Olsson (1864-1942), Dame Laura Knight (1877-1970), Sydney Lee (1866-1949), Sir Alfred Munnings (1878-1959), Dod Proctor (1890-1972), Sir Stanley Spencer (1891-1959), Adrian Stokes (1802-1972) and Algernon Talmage (1871-1939). For a number of years, she managed Lanham’s Gallery in St Ives, which showcased the work of the Newlyn School. In 1931 and 1932, she had a series of illustrated features on oil painting published in The Artist, whose editor, Harold Sawkins, described her as “one of England's greatest living woman painters”. She was given her first one-woman show at the Connell Gallery in 1933.

Having travelled extensively for much of her life, Dorothea Sharp spent her final decade working from her Blomfield Road studio in London's Maida Vale, her later paintings including many delightful flower pictures. She died, aged 81, in 1955.

Dorothea Sharp's paintings can be found in many public collections, including the Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery, Hastings Museum and Art Gallery, the Laing Art Gallery (Newcastle-upon-Tyne), Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum, Manchester Art Gallery, the Mercer Art Gallery (Harrogate), the National Museum of Wales /  Amgueddfa Cymru, Northampton Museum and Art Gallery, Penlee House (Penzance), Queen's University Belfast, Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum (Bournemouth), Worthing Museum and Art Gallery and, overseas, in Auckland, Harare, Hobart and Johannesburg.

We also wish to purchase paintings by Dorothea Sharp so if you have one to sell, please contact us for a free appraisal.