Cornwall has had a thriving artistic community for more than 200 years and today painters, sculptors and craftspeople continue to be drawn here by the dramatic coastal scenery, the strong, supportive creative atmosphere and that famous clarity of light. In fact, there are more artists in Cornwall than in any other area of the country outside of London. This means that we really are spoilt for choice when it comes to art galleries! Cornwall is just bursting with studios, artist’s workshops and museums for us to enjoy.
Across Cornwall you can discover wonderfully diverse, exciting and beautiful spaces displaying works by world famous national and international artists, as well as some of the region’s best modern creatives and up-and-coming talent. So, here is our guide to Cornwall Art Galleries.
This part of Cornwall is perhaps what immediately springs to mind when you think of art in the South West. The artistic communities of Newlyn and St Ives are world renowned, but alongside the well-known galleries and museums there are literally dozens of smaller studios and workshops to discover.
The elegant Penlee House was built as a family home in 1865 and is now a gallery that celebrates the skill and craftsmanship of the artists of West Cornwall. On display are many works by artists of the Newlyn School including Norman Garstin, Walter Langley, Lamorna Birch and Elizabeth and Stanhope Forbes. There are also regular special exhibitions showcasing individual Cornish artists.
Alongside the art collection is a wonderful museum holding historic collections spanning 6000 years of the area’s history and a huge photographic archive by the famous Gibson family from the Isles of Scilly.
Penlee House is very much a family friendly gallery with ‘drop-in’ workshops every Saturday and colouring in and quizzing activities to keep little ones occupied.
There is also a café, shop and beautiful gardens which include a children’s play area and sensory garden. There is level, ramped or lift access throughout. Public parking is available close by.
Adults £6 / Children Free
Tate St Ives opened in 1993, the second of the Tate’s regional galleries, and it holds a show stopping collection of modern art. The work on display explores the histories and ideas of modern artists with a connection to the vibrant St Ives scene during the last century. It is intended as an introduction to the local, national and international significance of this historic artist community, which is still thriving today.
An award winning gallery, the Tate, St Ives stands in a gorgeous location in the heart of this picturesque harbour town close to the stunning Porthmeor Beach. There are numerous smaller galleries to explore in the surrounding streets.
There is a shop onsite and a café on the top floor with panoramic views across St Ives Bay. Parking is available in the town.
The Tate aims to cater to all accessibility requirements, including visitors with hearing or visual impairments.
Adults £10.50 / Children Free
Newlyn Art Gallery was established in 1895 as a contemporary art museum and has since expanded to include The Exchange in Penzance which opened in 2007. Together they offer a wide and varied exhibition programme presenting contemporary work in all media by regional, national and international artists, with a supporting programme of events.
The Exchange with its huge glass façade was converted from an old telephone exchange and is a much grander space allowing visitors to experience large scale works not usually accessible in the region.
Newlyn Art Gallery has a shop selling local artist’s work and both venues have a café.
Both venues are accessible to wheelchairs.
Adults £4/ Children Free
A trip to the artistic haven of St Ives is just not complete without a visit to this hidden treasure in the quiet back lanes of the town. Discover the monumental work of one of Britain’s most important and influential sculptors as you wander around the home, studio and gardens where Barbara Hepworth lived until her death in 1975.
As you make your way through the house you can enjoy Hepworth’s own photographs, examples of her unfinished work and prints from across her career, as well as a wonderful collection of her smaller sculptural work and paintings.
Then from the house you pass into the wonderland that is her private garden. Here more than twenty of Hepworth’s sculptures are positioned amongst the trees and plants just as she envisioned them. It is a truly unexpected and magical space.
Tickets must be booked in advance, adults £6, under 18s free. There is public parking and plenty of cafes and shops within walking distance.
Wheelchair access is by prior appointment due to the steps and uneven surfaces.
Best of the Rest
Housed in a huge ex-industrial building in the former mining town of St Just this gallery is the brainchild of artist Kurt Jackson. Free to the public it is an ideal venue for Jackson’s eclectic range of expression spanning painting, film, sculpture and installation.
Established in 1927 this gallery can be found in the old Mariner’s Church. The society’s exhibition programme features an extraordinarily diverse mix of local contemporary visual arts. Free entry.
Discover this collective of over 50 artists and makers in the heart of Penzance, from painters to potters, and textiles to jewellery, Mirva Gallery is a treasure trove of artistic endeavour.
View our Complete Guide to West Cornwall.
The Falmouth School of Art was founded in 1902 and since that time artists, potters and sculptors have been drawn to the seaside towns along Cornwall’s south coast – and many have never left. As a result there are several flourishing creative communities and galleries and museums galore.
This little art gallery is very much part of the Falmouth community and holds a surprising and important catalogue of over 2000 artworks including Pre-Raphaelite and British Impressionist pieces. There are paintings by Thomas Gainsborough and a unique collection of the works of Henry Scott Tuke as well as a huge index of early photographs and automata.
Falmouth Art Gallery supports many local up and coming artists with small intimate exhibitions and regular themed events exploring the local art scene. There are also Saturday Art Workshops suitable for young and old.
Discover a small shop filled with local makers' work and there are plenty of cafes and public parking nearby. Disabled access is via a lift at the side of the building.
The Lizard Art Cooperative is made up of a group of artists living and working on the Lizard Peninsula. Finding this gallery can be a bit of an adventure, it is idyllically situated on the historic Trelowarren Estate owned by the Vyvyans, one of Cornwall’s oldest families. The gallery is housed in the old Stable Yard and surrounded by acres of woodlands not far from the Helford River.
The Lizard Art Gallery has become known for its eclectic mix of work since it was founded in 1995. From oil painters to print makers there is lots to discover and exhibitions are changed three times a year.
There is a shop, café and parking onsite. It is an accessible site.
Once known as the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society, the Poly is part arts cinema, part theatre and home to a gallery and the Poly Makers Guild. This elegant building on Church Street has been hosting live events, talks and exhibitions for the past 200 years.
There is a contemporary craft and design gallery which was founded in 2015 with some 50 artists involved, but the Poly has been at the heart of the town’s artistic community for much longer. The RCPS was actually founded in 1833 by the Fox family with the aim of promoting “the useful and fine arts”, an ideal perpetuated today.
Falmouth is an ‘arty’ town so there are plenty of small galleries dotted about the streets. There is a shop and a community pottery at the Poly, entry is free and a warm welcome assured!
Unfortunately due to the age of the building disabled access is limited.
Best of the Rest
First opened more than 40 years ago the Guild of Ten is a cooperative of craftspeople from Cornwall selling their original work in the centre of Truro. From textiles to ceramics and paintings this little gallery is packed with wonderful work from a range of truly talented artists.
This gallery can be found in a fine Georgian merchant’s house in the fishing town of Fowey and it prides itself on showcasing rising creative talent as well as established contemporary artists living in Cornwall. There are regular exhibitions throughout the year.
Housed in the retired lifeboat station right on the seafront in Looe this gallery is a unique creative space which supports and promotes art and creativity in the town. Visitors can not only admire the work on display but can also come and watch some of the artists at work, take part in one of the workshops or attend a talk by a local author.
Set in the heart of the stunning National Trust Estate of Trelissick this gallery is run by the Cornwall Crafts Association which was established in the 1970s to support craftspeople resident in Cornwall. The Trelissick gallery brings together an eclectic mix of artists across every genre, from classic oil paintings to vibrant textiles and eccentric ceramics. There is parking and a café onsite.
View our Complete Guide to South Cornwall.
The wild Atlantic Ocean and rugged cliffs of Cornwall’s north coast have inspired generations of artists. In this region of Cornwall the galleries are a little scarcer, but seeking them out can be an adventure in itself in this area of stunning sandy beaches, dramatic seascapes and quaint Cornish harbours.
Circle is a Fine Art Gallery not far from the town of Wadebridge. Here contemporary sculpture, photography and paintings from a diverse group of emerging and established artists are displayed in a cool and minimal space.
Focusing on fresh and innovative work the owners Lucy Thorman and John O’Carroll have created a gallery where modern art feels accessible and the atmosphere is relaxed. There are regular solo and group exhibitions here throughout the year.
Circle is part of what is known as the Hawksfield Cultural Centre just off the Atlantic Highway and is surrounded by a number of other quirky businesses including a bespoke hat company, design and clothing outlets.
There is onsite parking and a café.
Situated right beside the water on the North Quay, Padstow’s Quay Art Gallery is an art-lover’s delight and makes a perfect excuse for visiting this picturesque harbour town. The gallery features work from dozens of local, national and international painters, illustrators, ceramicists, glass artists and sculptors.
This is a family run business which prides itself on a friendly, personal experience for its visitors, so whether you are looking for a traditional landscape painting, a contemporary piece of pop art or an abstract sculpture their diverse portfolio has something that will bring you joy.
Padstow is bursting with other small art galleries and there are plenty of tempting eateries too, so why not make a day of it!
Parking nearby and disabled access to the lower part of the gallery but not the upper levels.
Best of the Rest
This intimate gallery in the idyllic village of Rock was opened in 2003 by Allan Caswell. In this informal space Allan displays his stunning ethereal-like oil paintings of Cornish landscapes inspired by the scenery just outside his gallery. There is parking onsite.
The North Shore Gallery offers a stunning collection of more than 1000 photographic images of Cornwall. From breath-taking seascapes to quiet moorland scenes and much more can be found in this galley tucked away in this historic coastal village.
View our Complete Guide to North Cornwall.
Top Tip for Art Lovers
Each year during the summer the Open Studios Cornwall event sees hundreds of local artists, potters, jewellers and crafters of every description open up their studios to the public. During this week, usually in July, you have the wonderful opportunity to go and see them at work and buy unique one off pieces directly from the artist. Pick up one of the guides, grab a map and start exploring!
Discover Cornwall’s unique art scene from one of our beautiful cottages in Cornwall.