In this dramatic painting Alfred Wallis depicted a ship floundering in turbulent seas at Porthmeor Beach, St Ives. Unlike many of his other paintings, which tell of what used to be, the ‘Wreck of the Alba’ is almost certainly something that Wallis witnessed himself. The disaster occurred in the January of 1938, when the 3,700-ton steamer ran aground in stormy weather. Thanks to the help of local St Ives people all but 5 men involved in the wreck survived.
Wallis worked on the painting at his cottage, with the panel propped on a table he chose his colours from pre-mixed household or ship’s paints, avoiding artists’ oils which he deemed not ‘real paint’ but ‘muck’.
Wreck of the Alba
377 x 683 mm
Oil paint on wood
Date of work
Presented by the Tate Friends St Ives 1994
Born in 1855 Alfred Wallis was an English fisherman, scrap merchant and painter. Claiming to have gone to sea at the age of nine, Wallis was involved in deep-sea fishing and had sailed as far as Newfoundland, Canada. In 1890 he moved to St Ives where he became a marine scrap merchant. He retired in 1912 and when his wife died in 1922 he took up painting to keep himself company.