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Leonard Fuller

(1891-1973) – War-time bridegroom

Leonard Fuller's artistic promise and budding romance were interrupted by the war. Sent to fight in France, Fuller formed a lifelong friendship with fellow St Ives artist Borlase Smart. He married artist Nancy Mostyn in 1917 and together they went on to found the St Ives School of Painting in 1938.

Credit: Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance and private collection

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The portrait and still life painter Leonard Fuller, originally from Dulwich, was one of the pivotal figures in the St Ives artists’ colony in the twentieth century. In 1938 he founded the world-renowned St Ives School of Painting and went on to teach and work alongside some of the great St Ives painters like Wilhelmina Barnes-Graham and Peter Lanyon.

During the First World War Leonard was in the same regiment as Robert Borlase Smart, who had trained as a painter in St Ives before the war. The men became close friends.   Sent to fight in France with the 10th Battalion Royal Fusiliers and later the Machine Gun Corps, the men’s friendship lasted until Borlase Smart’s death in 1947.  When Leonard married his fellow artist Marjorie (Nancy) Mostyn in 1917 while on leave, Borlase Smart helped form his guard of honour. 

After his battle experiences in the First World War, which deeply affected him, Leonard Fuller taught at St John’s Wood School of Art and then at his old school Dulwich College, which Stanhope Forbes had also attended.  Only in 1938 did he honour his war-time promise to come and set up a school of art in St Ives.

A major retrospective exhibition ‘Leonard Fuller (1891-1973): A Sympathetic Eye’ was held at Penlee House Gallery and Museum in 2014 and included portraits of many well-known Cornishmen.  

Key words: trenches

Credit: Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance and private collection