Stanhope Alexander Forbes was born in Dublin, in 1857. He was the son of Juliett de Guise Forbes, a French woman, and William Forbes, an English railway manager, who was later transferred to London.

Having completed his studies in France, Forbes returned to London and showed works he made in Brittany at the 1883 Royal Academy and Royal Hibernian Academy shows. In 1884 he moved to Newlyn in Cornwall, and soon became a leading figure in the growing colony of artists.

He was an artist and a founding member of the influential Newlyn School of painters. He was often called ‘the father of the Newlyn School’. Many of the Newlyn School artists had trained in Paris and been in contact with artists like Degas and Manet. They brought new French ideas to Britain and slowly revitalised the Victorian establishment.