Building Sandcastles

by Dorothea Sharp


‘Building Castles’ is a prime example of Sharp’s happy pictures. In the composition we can see a child methodically building their sandcastle, while other children play behind them. Sharp believed colour to be as important as form in the creation of a work and painted quickly with a heavily loaded brush. These ideas and techniques were learnt in Paris where she became influenced by the Impressionists, particularly by Monet. These concepts are perfectly executed in this beautiful painting where Sharp’s thick application of paint and use of exuberant colour palette highlights the bright sea and rocky foreshore. The bright light in this charming painting further reflects her Impressionist teachings. Her pictures have a fresh colour scheme, sense of movement and warmth that fit perfectly with her subjects. In the same way, her mastery of the impressionistic style imbues her canvases with an almost dream-like sentimentality.

DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 14 x 18 inches / 35.6 x 45.7 cms
SIGNATURE: Signed lower left
MEDIUM: Oil on canvas


Sharp became strongly associated with St Ives in the 1920s, visiting in the summers and immersing herself in the subject matter she became renowned for, joyful images of children, often at the beach. Her training and practice as a plein air painter and her absorption of the impressionists’ use of colour and light brought freshness and spontaneity to her images of children in works such as this. In 1928 Sharp was elected an honorary member of the St Ives Society of Artists, and in the late 1930s she settled in the colony for several years. Deeply immersed in artistic life there, she showed with such well-known artists as Laura Knight, Alfred Munnings and Stanhope Forbes. For several years she managed Lanham Galleries in St Ives, which showcased the work of Newlyn and St Ives School painters.

Private collection, United States

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Dorothea Sharp was born in Dartford, Kent.Despite her family’s disapproval, she trained at Regent Street Polytechnic under George Clausen and David Murray, and in Paris where she discovered the work of Monet.. The latter greatly influenced her handling of subjects and colour in impressionist fashion. The Artist (journal) made much of her work, considering her to be one of the greatest women painters of her time.

Dorothea Sharp first visited St Ives in 1920 and took one of the Porthmeor Studios which she retained over many years, despite also having a permanent home in London all of her life. In St Ives she also met her lifelong friend Marcella SMITH. In 1928, when the St Ives Society of Artists was re-organising its efforts and inviting distinguished artists to become honorary members, Dorothea Sharp was one of those invited..

During WWII she moved to St Ives and she and her friend, Marcella Smith became prominent members of STISA. Titles include Paddling at St Ives (c1930), Sand Castles (B&W Ill, Falmouth Exh Cat), A Sunlit Garden, The Warren, St Ives (c1930) and Flowers in a Window. Her paintings are held in many permanent collections.


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