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St Just Tin Miners, Harold Harvey (1874-1941)
Oil on canvas, Newlyn School, 1935. Harold Harvey was one of the few successful artists of the period who was born and raised in Cornwall. He grew up surrounded by the industry he would later paint and counted many of the working people he depicted as friends. He originally studied under Norman Garstin, but also visited Paris as a young man where he was greatly influenced by the Post-Impressionist movement. His earlier work was very much influenced by Stanhope Forbes, though it changed as he grew older, his brushwork becoming less thick and his forms more simple. Some of his later work shows a period stylisation but without the Picasso influences of his contemporaries Ernest and Dod Procter. Harvey continued to work right up to his death in 1941. The painting is, in essence, a portrait of two miners, Nicholas Grenfell and Sydney Angove, who were lifelong friends of the artist. They had both worked at Botallack and Geevor mines before each retired due to ill health. They are posed in Harvey's studio in front of a backdrop of a scene from a Malayan tin mine. In the late 1920s cheaper tin from Malaya undercut the price of Cornish tin and many miners emigrated in search of work. The painting, therefore, could be seen as much a comment on the decline of the tin mining industry in Cornwall as it is a celebration of the Cornish diaspora.