Urgent Museum Notice

Elizabeth Adela Armstrong Forbes

A monochrome drawing of a woman's face. She is depicted from the neck up and is wearing a collar. The drawing appears sketched, and the lines look quickly rendered. The forms of her eyes, nose, and lips are basic and there is some shading on her face and surrounding her head.

Courtesy of Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance, UK: The George Bednar Donation

1859–1912

As a young girl, Forbes studied drawing in her native Canada and in England. She later studied with William Merritt Chase at the Art Students League of New York. In 1882 she moved to Pont-Aven, Brittany, where she experimented with plein-air painting, a technique that impacted her future oeuvre. Returning to London in 1883, Forbes developed her talent as a printmaker and was elected to the Society of Painter Etchers.

An established professional artist by 1885, she settled in Newlyn, England, where she met and married the painter Stanhope Alexander Forbes. Together they opened the Newlyn Art School in 1899, teaching artists to paint from nature. Despite being a cofounder of the school, she struggled against the perception that women should not work outside of the home unchaperoned.

In addition to working in watercolor, pastel, oil painting, and etching, Forbes also wrote poetry and authored and illustrated a children’s book, King Arthur’s Wood (1904). She exhibited in London at the Royal Academy of Arts and the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours. Additionally, she won awards including an 1891 medal for painting at the Paris International Exhibition and an 1893 gold medal in oil painting at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Artist Details

  • Name

    Elizabeth Adela Armstrong Forbes
  • Birth

    Kingston, Canada, 1859
  • Death

    Newlyn, England, 1912

Works by Elizabeth Adela Armstrong Forbes

Will-o'-the-Wisp

Elizabeth Adela Armstrong Forbes based her painting Will-o’-the-Wisp on the symbolic poem The Fairies by Irish poet William Allingham. She depicts the story of Bridget, who was stolen by “wee folk” and brought to the mountains for seven years. Upon returning to her village, Bridget discovers that all of her friends are gone.

Set in autumn with bare trees silhouetted against a moonlit sky, the...

An auburn-haired, light-skinned young woman occupies the central panel of a triptych. Barefoot and clad in a sleeveless white dress, she reclines on a bed of autumn leaves in a rocky, moonlit landscape. The mist at her feet obscures mice. Fairy folk frolic in the left panel.