Norman Garstin


Irish (1847 - 1926)

Norman Garstin was born on the 28th of August 1847 in Caherconlish, Ireland. His paintings are associated with the en plein-air approach, with heavy influence from French impressionists such as Édouard Manet. Garstin’s inspiration also hails from Japanese prints and American painters such as James McNeil Whistler.

Garstin attended Victoria College on the island of Jersey, following a passion for architecture and engineering. He ventured abroad and travelled to Cape Town, South Africa where he met Cecil Rhodes and began a career in journalism. Discontent and struck with a desire to pursue a career in art, in 1880 he attended the Royal Academy in Antwerp, Belgium. This compelled a move to Paris where he further studied from 1882 to 1884 in the studio of artist Carolus Duran. During his time in Paris he was associated with Edgar Degas and became keenly interested in French Impressionism. Following his studies, he travelled throughout Europe visiting Spain, Morocco, Venice – and Italy, embarking on the completion of his first professional paintings. Garstin first exhibited in 1883 at the Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin, with the painting ‘Bird’s Nesting’ which had been sent from Paris. He regularly exhibited at the RHA in the following years.  

In 1888, he met Louisa Jones whom he married and had three children, all of which pursued a career in the field of journalism and art. They moved to Vernon, Newlyn where Garstin founded his roots in the artistic community. He became a member of the New English Art Club (NEAC) and the Newlyn Society of Artists (NSA). In 1895, he became a founding member of the Newlyn Art Gallery which became an exhibition space for the students at Newlyn School of Arts where he taught. This gallery stands today as a prominent feature in the community of Newlyn.

As an avid traveller he took his students to places in Europe where he found great inspiration earlier in his career.  In 1901 and 1902, one of New Zealand’s renowned artists Frances Hodgkin’s joined his Summer sketching classes in France where they formed a great friendship. She proceeded to write of him and his wife in a variety of letters from 1901 to 1914 to her mother Rachel Hodgkin’s and Kate Rattray. In 1902 a transcription of her letter wrote “they are such dear delightful people but I do wish they had a little more of the world’s goods – living on pictures is a dog’s life”. Hodgkin’s spoke very fondly of her teacher Garstin, wishing their family good fortune.

Garstin died on the 22nd of June 1926 in Penzance, Cornwall. An exhibition of his and his daughter Alethea’s work was sponsored by the Penwith Society of Arts and was featured at the National Gallery of Ireland in 1978. His work can be found at the Tate Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum.