Alfred Wallis (18 August 1855 - 29 August 1942) was an English fisherman and artist.
Details of Wallis' early life are uncertain, but he settled in St. Ives, Cornwall, in 1890. In 1912, he retired from a lifetime working as a deep sea fisherman. Following his wife's death in 1922, Wallis took up painting to 'keep himself company', as he later told Jim Ede.
His paintings are an excellent example of naïve or primitive art — they ignore perspective and an object's scale is often based on its relative importance in the scene. This gives many of his paintings a map-like quality. Wallis painted his seascapes from memory, in large part because the world of sail he knew was being replaced by steam ships. Having no money, Wallis improvised with materials, mostly painting on cardboard ripped from packing boxes.
In some ways, Wallis' timing was excellent. In 1928, a few years after he'd started painting, Ben Nicholson and Kit Wood came to St. Ives and established an artist colony. They were delighted to find Wallis, celebrating his direct approach to image making. As such, Wallis was propelled into a circle of the some of most progressive artists working in Britain in the 1930s. The influence was all one way — Wallis continued to paint as he always had.
Through Nicholson and Wood, Wallis was introduced to Jim Ede who promoted his work in London. Despite this attention, Wallis sold few of his paintings and continued to live in poverty until he died in the Madron Workhouse in Penzance.
Examples of his paintings can be seen at Kettle's Yard (Jim Ede's home) and at the Tate St Ives.