Henry Scott Tuke was one of the founding members of the Newlyn School and his importance in his own right as one of the foremost English Impressionists is only now coming to be recognised. Tuke was himself a Cornishman and knew the region from childhood, giving his paintings a quality of intimacy rather than grand design which sets him apart from some others in the movement. His landscapes tend to be small details rather than large vistas and there are also many paintings of ships and boats that would have formed an important part of his daily life.
It is for his depictions of the naked male that Tuke is perhaps most widely known and he has tended to become associated with gay culture, perhaps even a pioneer of it. However, as Catherine Wallace points out, this association was by no means automatic in the nineteenth or early twentieth centuries and care needs to be taken when ascribing him to particular movement. Nevertheless, there is a sensuality to these works that makes them among his most vivid, although it is also fair to say that it is in his figurative work generally that he is at his best.
It is also fair to say that many people will not have heard of Tuke and that this is not a book for the general reader. However, it fills a gap in literature about the art scene in the South West and feeds into growing interest in the Newlyn and St Ives Schools in general and is welcome for that. Catherine Wallace has researched Tuke extensively and this is an authoritative work, taking the form largely of a catalogue raisonnée (of the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society collection); that is to say in lay terms that some of the illustrations are quite small!
As a study of perhaps a minor, rather neglected, figure in the history of English art, this is a fine and well-executed work, well up to Halsgrove’s usual standard.