During the eighteenth century talented and ambitious artists, usually portrait and maritime painters, moved to London as their home towns could not provide sufficient patrons. Bristol was a busy port and trading centre second only to London but, despite its wealth, few artists worked there. Its neighbour Bath was in complete contrast. A broad range of society visited the fashionable spa town during its winter ‘season’ and artists came for the clients. Most were portraitists.

From about 1815 to 1840 the Bristol School of Artists was distinctive for its genre and Romantic landscape painting. The same period saw the creation of art institutions in the larger towns of the south west. The Bristol Academy for the Promotion of the Fine Arts (1844), later the Royal West of England Academy, grew to become a regional exhibition venue.

Cornwall was remote until the coming of the railways. Tourism expanded and by the 1880s Newlyn and St Ives were flourishing artists’ colonies, their subjects the fishing community, land- and seascapes. In the 1920s and 1930s St Ives, exceptionally, attracted a group of modernist artists. A new generation came in the 1950s, fusing abstraction with the landscape. In 1993 Tate St Ives opened to show the work of the artists who had lived or worked there.