Alexander Stanhope Forbes was born in Dublin on November 18, 1857. At school, he showed a talent for drawing, and was encouraged by his art tutor at Dulwich College, John Sparkes. Sparkes was soon made master of the Lambeth School of Art; Forbes attended the school from 1874 until 1876, and Sparkes prepared Forbes for entry to the Royal Academy. Forbes attended the Royal Academy schools from 1876 until 1878. He then moved to Paris, where he became a pupil of Léon Bonnat and shared a studio with Arthur Hacker. In Paris, the artist became influenced by the work of French Realist painters such as Jean-François Millet and Jules Bastien-Lepage. Forbes spent the summer months of the following three years working in coastal villages in Brittany (1881–3), searching for his own coin de terre. During this time, his passion for painting en plein air grew, and he sought out a similar rural setting when he returned to England in 1884. He settled in the Cornish fishing village of Newlyn, where he became a kind of leader of the Newlyn painters. It was in Newlyn where he met his wife, a fellow painter, Elizabeth Adela Armstrong, and together they established the Newlyn School of Art in 1899. He was also a founding member of the New English Art Club in 1886. In 1886, he also began to exhibit at the Royal Academy regularly.
He was elected a Royal Academician in 1910, and continued to take pupils until the outbreak of the Second World War, sticking rigorously to his naturalist principles. He died at his house in Newlyn in 1947, aged 89.
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