Our Ponckle connection
When we relocated to our current gallery space in 2021 it was particularly apt the the artist Ponckle had worked from the same gallery from 1985 -2005. Ponckle Fletcher 'the cat painter of St Ives' was a prolific artist & she lived/worked in St Ives for any years. Those of you who are not from the area may not be aware of her work so I thought I would share a little information.
We were lucky enough to meet Ponckle on our first ever visit to St Ives, before we moved here ourselves. She was then working from a studio in Whites Old Workshops on Porthmeor Road if we remember correctly. She was certainly a memorable character & it took us quite a while to select a painting - being big cat fans it was difficult to choose! We think this was one of the first ever original paintings we bought together & it still hangs in our cottage today.
A brief history: Born in Chingford in 1934 the oldest of 5, she explored her artistic side from the start. She married at the early age of 17 to Ken Moule, who was responsible for the name 'Ponckle'. However she moved to Paris, divorced & then remarried, in 1964, to photographer Trevor Clark. She had 2 sons & they all moved to Mallorca in 1969. 7 years later she was back in England & divorced again.
It was 1978 when she moved to St Ives with her sons; Gavin & Jack. She opened up a little gallery in her house on Norway Lane before the move to Island Square. Ponckle became well known for her cat paintings, selling many from her gallery. The gallery itself she embellished with flowers & plants on the terrace making it a very colourful place.
We are unsure of the year but on a return visit to Cornwall Tim & I managed to visit Ponckle for afternoon tea in her home. Somewhere I have a photograph of Tim 'draped in cats' - pre-digital so an actual print stuffed in a box probably.
In 2004 Ponckle suffered a stroke which impacted her physically. She sold the gallery & then painted from her home. She very sadly died of pneumonia in 2012. You can read her obituary here
We like to think Ponckle would approve of how we have the gallery now. There is definitely a bit of a 'cat theme' which often prompts conversations with visitors about our own feline family & of course about Ponckle, whom lots of people fondly remember.
Over the years we have gradually been trying to collect a few Ponckle pieces especially as it would be nice to bring them back to the gallery. We have several pencil drawings, a couple of wooden plaques & a plaster cat figure!
There is a great book 'Ponckle The Cat Painter of St Ives' which we have - I believe we bought it from the Tate some years ago. This book includes more details about her life & lots of photographs/images of artwork. It is now out of print but copies do pop up on Ebay or Amazon from time to time. We keep our copy at the gallery so do ask if you would like to see it next time you visit.
Last week we purchased a selection of greetings cards which feature our gallery & several recognisable places around St Ives. Most of these were printed by St Ives Printing & Publishing Company. We are always on the look out for more Ponckle pieces so let us know if you find any for sale!