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 Elizabeth Adela Armstrong Stanhope Forbes  (1859 - 1912)



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Lived/Active: Ontario/New York / United Kingdom/Canada/England      Known for: fishing genre, child figure and landscape painting, drypoints

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following information is from the Canadian Women Artists History Initiative

Elizabeth Armstrong Forbes
Born :Kingston, Ontario, 1859
Died: Newlyn, Cornwall, 1912

Biography synopsis

As a young girl Elizabeth Adela Stanhope Forbes (née Armstrong) studied at the South Kensington Art Schools. She returned to Canada and studied at the Art Students League (1877-80) with William Chase, who encouraged her to study in Munich with Frank Duveneck and J. Frank Currier, and she went from there to Pont-Aven, Brittany, in 1882.

She began to use local people as models, and she sent work to the Royal Institute in London, where it all sold on the opening day. In 1883 she returned to London and in 1884 traveled to Holland. Following the summer of 1884, she returned to London where she learned drypoint etching from Walter Sickert and James Whistler. She became a member of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers, and she also exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery and the Royal Institute.

In late 1885 she and her mother moved to Newlyn and then to St. Ives, where she met her future husband, Stanhope Forbes. They married in 1889. Forbes worked in watercolour, oils and pastels, although after her marriage she no longer produced etchings. In 1891 she won a medal at the Paris International Exhibition and she became a member of the Grosvenor Gallery Pastel Society. She and her husband opened the Newlyn School of Painting in 1899. In 1900 she was elected an associate of the Royal Watercolor Society.

Media used

South Kensington Art Schools
Art Students' League, New York, 1877 - 1880 (under William Chase)
Private study (under Frank Duveneck (Munich); J. Frank Currier (Munich); Walter Sickert (London); James Whistler (London))

Royal Society of Painter-Etchers
Grosvenor Gallery Pastel Society
Royal Watercolour Society

File & Archive locations
Art Gallery of Ontario - Edward P. Taylor Research Library and Archives
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts - Library and Archives
National Archives of Canada - Documentary Art Library
National Gallery of Canada - Library and Archives
University of British Columbia - Fine Arts Library

Victorian Romantics: Autumn Exhibition of Fine Pre-Raphaelite and Victorian Paintings, Watercolours and Drawings c. 1850-1920. 1985.
"Art and Artists." Toronto Saturday Night 4.19 (4 Apr. 1891): 11.
"Generous Gift to Patriotic Works." Ottawa Citizen 29 Jan. 1917.
"Group of Pictures to National Art Gallery." Ottawa Citizen 13 Jan. 1917.
"The Arts in Brief." Globe and Mail (Toronto) 3 Dec. 1992.
"The Royal Academy." Art Journal (Jun. 1896): 172-3.
Baker, Denys Val. "A Cornish Art Colony." Antiques Magazine (Jun. 1990): 159-67.
Baker, Denys Val. "A Cornish Art Colony." Connoisseur 202 (1979): 161-9.
Barbican Art Gallery. Painting in Newlyn, 1880-1930. London: Barbican Art Gallery, 1985.
Barbican Art Gallery. The Last Romantics: The Romantic Tradition in British Art: Burne-Jones to Stanley Spencer. London: Barbican Art Gallery, 1989.
Belgrave Gallery. British Post-Impressionists and Moderns. London: Belgrave Gallery, 1987.
Birch, Lionel. Stanhope A. Forbes, A.R.A. and Elizabeth Stanhope Forbes, A.R.W.S. London: Cassell and Company, 1906.
Cherry, Deborah. Painting Women: Victorian Women Artists. London, New York: Routledge, 1993.
Cooper, A. B. "The Fairy Tale in Art." Canadian Magazine 38 (Dec. 1911): 181-3.
Cross, Tom. The Shining Sands: Artists in Newlyn and St. Ives 1880-1930. ?: West County Books, 1995.
Crozier, Gladys. "Elizabeth Stanhope Forbes." Art Journal 66 (1904): 382-5.
Dignam, Mary E. "Distinguished Professional Women." Women of Canada: Their Life and Work. Toronto: National Council of Women of Canada, 1900.
E.B.S. "The Paintings and Etchings of Elizabeth Stanhope Forbes." Studio 4 (1894): 186-92.
Fox, Caroline. Stanhope Forbes and the Newlyn School. Newton Abbott: David and Charles, 1993.
Getty Centre Education for the Arts. Women Artists of the Americas. Glenview, Illinois: Distributed by Crystal Productions, 1994.
Graves, Algernon. The Royal Academy of Arts: A Complete Dictionary of Contributors and Their Works from its Foundations in 1769 to 1904. London: Henry Graves & Co. and George Bell & Sons, 1905.
Helland, Janice. "Forbes, Elizabeth." Dictionary of Women Artists, ed. Delia Gaze London, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997: 539-41.
Jacobs, Michael. The Good and Simple Life: Artist Colonies in Europe and America. Oxford: Phaidon, 1985.
Johnson, Jane. Works Exhibited at the Royal Society of British Artists 1824-1893 and the New English Art Club 1888-1917. Suffolk, England: Antique Collectors' Club, 1975, reprint 1987.
Johnston, E. F. B. "Painting and Sculpture in Canada." Canada and Its Provinces. Toronto: Glasgow, Brook and Co, 1914.
Meynell, Alice. "Newlyn." Art Journal (Apr. 1889): 97-102.
Morgan, H. J., ed. Types of Canadian Women and of women who have been connected with Canada. Toronto: W. Briggs, 1903.
Phillips. "Hide and Seek." Phillips. London: Phillips, 1989.
Rezelman, Betsy Cogger. The Newlyn Artists and Their Place in Late-Victorian Art. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University, 1984.
Robson, Albert Henry. Canadian Landscape Painters. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1932.
Sabin, Arthur K. "The Dry-points of Elizabeth Adela Forbes, Formerly E.A. Armstrong (1859-1912)." Print Collector's Quarterly 9 (1922): 75-100.
Skipwith, P. "Artists of the Newlyn School (1880-1900)." Burlington Magazine 121 (Aug. 1979): 543.
Waters, Clara Erskine Clement. Women in the Fine Arts. New York: Hacker Art Books, 1974.
Waters, Grant M. Dictionary of British Artists Working 1900-1950. Eastbourne: Eastbourne Fine Arts Publications, 1975.

Writings by
Forbes, Elizabeth. "An April Holiday." Studio 43.181( Apr. 1908): 191-9.
Stanhope Forbes, Elizabeth. "On the Slope of a Southern Hill." Studio 18.79 (Oct. 1899): 25-34.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Elizabeth Stanhope Forbes: 1859—1912: Painter, etcher and illustrator using oils, mixed media, watercolours, chalk and crayon; publisher, teacher

A Canadian-born artist (29 December 1859) she became a central figure in the art circles of West Cornwall, as well as being a nationally known and respected painter. Her early studies in art included periods at the Kensington Art School aged 14, while living by chance next door to D G Rossetti (but never meeting), and studying the work of the Pre-Raphaelites; then studying at the Art Students' League, New York (1878-81) with William Merritt Chase (1849-1916).  Shorter visits, always accompanied by her mother, were made to Munich where she met Marianne Preindlsberger (later Marianne L M STOKES), and Pont Aven where she was tutored in etching.

In 1884 she joined up with the Art Students' League again to visit and work in Holland. In that same year her outstanding painting Zandvoort Fisher Girl was exhibited, a painting destined to become one of her hallmarks, not unlike School is Out. In the period 1883-89 she participated in the name of Elizabeth Armstrong (Specialty: Domestic) in more than sixty-three principal London exhibitions. Her outstanding early work in etching, fortunately collected by her mentor in the art, Mortimer MENPES, is catalogued, but did not develop later in her career.
Scott, in Painting at the Edge, notices a fleeting visit from Elizabeth Armstrong (and her mother) at Walberswick, Suffolk, from which two etchings were produced. After marriage to Stanhope FORBES, her work diminished in quantity though not in quality, and despite preferring the more cosmopolitan art crowd of St Ives, she was always most closely associated with the so-called 'Newlyn school' of artists.

She was a Medallist in the Paris Universal Exhibition 1889, a Gold Medallist in Oil painting in the Chicago Exposition 1893 and the winner of a Merit Award in the Royal British Colonial Society of Artists Exhibition 1910. Together with her husband, Stanhope FORBES, she developed and sustained the FORBES School of Painting from its institution in 1899 until her untimely death in 1912.

Her nickname 'Mibs' was a shortening of 'Forces Mibs', a backslang version of chatting between the friends at Myrtle Cottage (aka 'The Myrtage') where the JESSE cousins (Cicely JESSE and Wynifried Tennyson JESSE aka Fryn) and Dod SHAW (later PROCTER) lived whilst they attended the Forbes School. Both Elizabeth and Stanhope were deeply engaged with the development and life of the new Passmore Edwards Art Gallery at Newlyn (NAG), from its establishment in 1895, and continued to exhibit there throughout their creative lives.

Her watercolour paintings produced both for exhibition and as a book for their only child, Alec, King Arthur's Wood, was published in large (elephantine) format in 1904. Her model for the figure of King Arthur in this mammoth fairy tale was her colleague and friend Thomas Cooper Gotch. In 1908-9 she initiated the publication of an arts periodical, The Paper Chase, edited by her close friend F Tennyson JESSE. It was discontinued after the first two issues owing to her terminal illness.

Elizabeth died of cancer on 16 March 1912, aged 51, in Newlyn, after three years of treatments and recuperative rest-cures in London and France.

In her obituaries, she was described as the 'Queen of Newlyn'. In 2005, in the portraiture exhibition Faces of Cornwall at Penlee House, the following were displayed: Half-Holiday (Alec home from school c1909, Penlee Collection); Newlyn Maid (NAG Collection); Cicely Jesse (Penlee Collection); A Zandvoort Fishergirl (1884, NAG Collection) and her well-known masterpiece, School is Out (1899). Although the latter in the Penlee Collection is a Newlyn School painting, and the subject thought to be from that area, it was painted at the time she was working at Percy CRAFT's Studio in St Ives. Hence the subject may be based on a St Ives school room.

Society of Painter-etchers (Associate 1883);
New English Art Club (Associate 1886);
Newlyn Society of Artists;
Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours (Associate)
Dowdeswell's (3) 1890;
Fine Art Society, London Children & Child Lore (Solo) 1900
Grosvenor Gallery, London 1885-86, 1888-90;
Leicester Galleries, London Model Children and Other People (Solo) 1904;
NAG from Opening (1895ff), Loan Exhibition 1958, Studio Sale (Newlyn Orion Benefit) 1981;
Notts Castle (2) 1894;
Royal Academy 1883 ~98, 1900-06, 1908-12;
RI 1883;
Chicago World's Columbian Exposition 1893 (Gold medal);
Society of Painter-Etchers from1883;
Whitechapel (7) 1902;
Falmouth Art Gallery Women Artists (Group) 1996;

Cornwell Artists Index

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