Norman Garstin
Irish Plein-Air Landscape Artist, Newlyn School. Biography, Paintings.

The Red Houses. 1912

Norman Garstin (1847-1926)

The Irish landscape artist and figure painter Norman Garstin was born in County Limerick, the only child of an Irish mother and an Anglo-Irish father. He did not take to painting at first. Instead, he studied engineering in Cork, then, when his skill at drawing and draughtsmanship became apparent, travelled to London to study architecture. News of the fortunes to be made in the South African diamond fields then took him to Kimberly, where he dug for diamonds for four years.

A fall from a horse, causing him to lose the sight in his right eye, forced another career change whereupon Garstin turned his attention to art.

The Bull Hotel, Burford

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He travelled to Antwerp in 1878 and (like Richard Moynan and Roderic O'Conor) studied under Charles Verlat. After Antwerp, Garstin moved to Paris and for three years studied at the art studio of Carolus Duran. Here, he met the Impressionist masters Manet and Degas and also made friends with several of the artists who would later join him in Newlyn. After Paris, Garstin travelled through the South of France, Italy, Tangier and Spain until 1886 when he settled (two years after Stanhope Forbes) in Newlyn, Cornwall, where he became one of the founders of the Newlyn School of art. The Newlyn School was inspired by the plein-air painting traditions of the French Barbizon School, and aimed to reproduce the naturalism of country life.


Unlike Forbes, Garstin was regarded as a thinker and the intellectual of the group. To supplement his income, he wrote articles for 'The Studio' and taught painting and drawing, being credited with teaching Harold Harvey, who was the only 'Cornish' member of the Newlyn group. Compared to other Newlyn artists, Garstin was not a prolific painter and the scarcity of his work was made worse with the demolition of his studio (during the late 1950s) during which many of his paintings were lost.

Garstin's forte was working on a small scale in the open air. He specialized in oil painting on small panels, a method he had picked up from the French Impressionists such as Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas. While not perhaps a powerful artist, his work is noted for its sensitive feeling and visual charm.

One of the great modern Irish landscape artists, Garstin exhibited with the Royal Academy (RA), the Walker Art Gallery Liverpool and 34 times with the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) from 1883. He is a major figure in the history of Irish art.

Most Expensive Painting By Norman Garstin

The auction record for a work by Norman Garstin was set in 2000, when his landscape painting, entitled Towards The Sun Setting, was sold at DeVeres, in Dublin, for IR£54,000.

See also: Plein Air Painting in Ireland.

More Information About Visual Arts in Ireland

• For details of other plein air landscape painters, see: Irish Artists: Paintings and Biographies.
• For more about outdoor landscape artists like Norman Garstin, see: Irish Art Guide.
• For more about outdoor painting, see: Homepage.

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