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The Serpentine Quarry, near Mullion

Samuel John ‘Lamorna’ Birch
circa 1917

The painting depicts the cliffs of Mullion Cove, on the west-facing coast of The Lizard. These are formed of Serpentine marble, which has distinctive colours and pearly texture and has been quarried for architectural and decorative use for centuries.

Saumel Birch was an important influence on leading British artists such as Alfred Munnings and Laura Knight. Like those artists, his broad and vigorous handling of paint had its origins in Impressionist painting, though he was largely self-taught.

He first visited nearby Newlyn in 1889 but his love of landscape drew him to Lamorna where he settled in 1892. Here he came under the influence of Standhope Forbes who encouraged him to adopt the name of the vallery to distinguish him from the Newlyn painter Lionel Birch. A small artists’ colony developed in the Lamorna Valley around Birch.