The tangled love lives of the “Newlyn School”, a colony of artists living and working on the Cornish coast in the run-up to the first world war, is the subject of this gentle period drama from British director Christopher Menaul. The tale centres on the love triangle between celebrated painter Alfred Munnings, aspiring artist Florence Carter-Wood and Gilbert Evans, land agent for the Lamorna Valley, whose rugged beauty inspired the artists and offered a suitably wild backdrop for their bohemian lifestyle.
The film’s production crew worked hard to capture the extraordinary light and brooding coastal landscapes that made the far west of Cornwall such a magnet for painters.
The beautiful cove at Lamorna, still home to several descendants of the Newlyn artists, is as atmospheric as ever – but for practical reasons most of the “Lamorna” scenes were actually shot at Prussia Cove, a private estate just east of Penzance, which is home to a handful of attractive stone cottages perched above tiny coves and inlets (see “Where to stay” below).
Some of the most memorable scenes were filmed on the National Trust-owned beaches at Holywell and Porthcurno. Sheltered by two rocky headlands, Holywell Bay, near Newquay, provides a dramatic setting for the exuberant horse-race sequences, while the white sands at Porthcurno, near Land’s End, make an idyllic location for a beach party scene.
The “Newlyn School” was named after the fishing port where many of the artists were based. It’s still home to a lively artistic community and a School of Art, offering short courses in drawing, painting, pottery and sculpture, opened in 2011. For total immersion in the landscapes and techniques that so inspired Munnings and his peers, sign up for the £130 two-day Abstract Landscape painting course in Lamorna.
Where to stay
The cast and crew of Summer in February stayed at the Cove in Lamorna, a collection of stylish self-catering apartments that have evolved from the original Jory’s Cliff House Hotel, scene of many of the real-life events that the story is based on (from £125 per night for a one-bedroom apartment with sea views.
But for a flavour of the untamed beauty that attracted so many artists to this stretch of coast, the cottages at Prussia Cove (cottage sleeping seven from £678 per week in July) are hard to beat. What they lack in luxury they make up for with rustic charm and spectacular clifftop locations with footpath access to tiny coves that very few tourists discover.
‘Summer in February’ goes on general release in the UK this weekend