Tuke was a prolific artist with over 1300 works listed and it is suggested that even more are still to be discovered. Tuke kept a detailed Register of his work which has been published by the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society in Falmouth. He painted in the Impressionist style and is best known for his paintings of nude boys and young men as well as being an established maritime artist who produced as many portraits of sailing ships as he did human figures. Image featured left: “Boys on a Beach” (1909) oil on canvas.
In 1875, Tuke enrolled in the Slade School of Art under Alphonse Legros and Sir Edward Poynter. Initially Tuke’s father paid for his tuition but in 1877 Tuke won a scholarship which allowed him to continue his training at Slade and in Italy in 1880.
From 1881 to 1883 he was in Paris where he met Jules Bastien-Lepage, who encouraged him to paint en plein air. On his return to England, Tuke moved to the south in Newlyn, Cornwall, where many of his Slade and Parisian friends had already formed the Newlyn School of Painters. He received several lucrative commissions there, after exhibiting his work at the Royal Academy of Art in London. By 1885, Tuke moved to Falmouth where many of his major works were produced. He became an established artist and was elected to full membership of the Royal Academy in 1914. (Image to Right: “A Bathing Group” (1914) oil on canvas, Diploma Work for Royal Academy. The main figure depicted is professional Italian model, Nicola Lucciani. Sadly, Lucicani was killed not long after this sitting, fighting in WW1.
Towards the end of his life Tuke suffered from poor health for many years and knew that his work was no longer fashionable. In his Will he left generous amounts of money to some of the men who, as boys, had been his models. Tuke suffered a heart attack in 1928 and died in Falmouth on 13th March, 1929 and was buried at a cemetery close to his home.
Largely forgotten until the 1970s, Tuke was rediscovered by the first generation of openly gay artists and art collectors. He has since become a cult figure with lavish editions of his paintings published and his works fetching high prices at auctions.
- I’ll spruik for Tuke for I feel he was no fluke!