A quick look at the art movement that made St Ives famous throughout the world, and a round up of upcoming exhibitions to catch in the town.
During and after the second world war, and for a quarter of a century, St Ives became a hub for an internationally successful collective of modern artists, initially including Naum Gabo, Barbara Hepworth, Winifred and Ben Nicholson, Wilhemina Barns-Graham, Margaret Mellis and John Wells, amongst others.
Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood were particularly inspired by the primitive paintings of retired St Ives seaman Alfred Wallis.
This movement, boosted by talented and forward thinking Cornish artists such as Peter Lanyon, and young abstract artists such as Terry Frost, Patrick Heron and Bryan Wynter, congregated in and around the small harbour town and created an inspirational body of work that influenced other great modern artists including Rothko (who visited Cornwall in the 50s) and reached all corners of the globe.
In 1980, Tate took over the running of the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Gallery, and by the mid 80s plans were afoot to bring a Tate gallery to St Ives, to show works from the Tate collection of artists who had lived or worked in St Ives.
Opened in 1993, Tate St Ives, with a large, award winning extension completed in 2018, houses a permanent collection showing the St Ives School, and a feature gallery with changing exhibitions.
This year, with an exciting internationally flavoured programme, Tate St Ives hosts a first UK retrospective of Egyptian-Canadian artist Anna Boghiguan (8/2-6/5/19); Lebanese artist Huguette Caland has her first UK museum solo exhibition (18/5-1/9/19) and Nigerian-born contemporary artist Otobong Nkanga will install new and existing works (20/9/19-5/1/20).
The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Gallery – her St Ives home, workshop and garden, from 1949 til her death there in 1975 – has a permanent exhibition of her sculptures in her living room and garden, and the preserved sculpture workshop. This can be visited on a joint ticket with Tate St Ives and is highly recommended as a must-see. See if you can also spot her sculptures around the town.
The fantastic value Art Pass (£18/£14 concessions, available from all participating venues) will give you a week’s access to Tate St Ives, the Barbara Hepworth Museum, as well as:
– the Leach Pottery, St Ives, founded in 1920 by Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada, among the most respected and influential potteries in the world.
– Penlee House Gallery and Museum – which shows Luminaires: Victorian Photographers in West Cornwall until 16/3/19, followed by Artists, by themselves – portraits of the Newlyn School and Lamorna Group including works by Stanhope Forbes, Fred Hall, Dame Laura Knight, Dod Procter and Richard Weatherby,
– Newlyn Art Gallery and The Exchange – shows a lively programme through 2019 of contemporary work in all media, from national and international artists.
This rich artistic heritage also gives a great selection of commercial galleries and our top picks to appreciate and browse include:
– Porthminster Gallery (feature image – Nick Pumphrey/Visit St Ives) – in an old pilchard-press building, this fascinating gallery features original works by established St Ives School artists, as well as up and coming and St Ives based contemporary artists, sculptors and ceramicists. They open 2019 with their annual New Beginnings exhibition (until 23/3/19) of artworks by artists new to the gallery including Porthmeor Studios based Simon Williams.
– Anima Mundi – at the cutting edge of contemporary art and this year featuring provocative Cornish artist Samuel Bassett (13/4-18/5/19).
– the Belgrave – hosts regular exhibitions of work by major artists associated with the St Ives Modern Period and kicks off 2019 with St Ives artist Bryan Pearce (4-25/3/19).
– the New Craftsman – focuses on craft makers, ceramicists and reputable artists including Rose Hilton, Matthew Lanyon, John Miller, this year’s highlights include Emma Jeffryes and Michael Praed.
Further afield, our top recommendation would be a visit to Kurt Jackson’s Foundation Gallery, in St Just. This year’s exhibitions start with a retrospective of the late Peter Jackson, who was taught by William Scott, Peter Lanyon and Terry Frost (13/4-18/5/19).
Immerse yourself in art with a special short break Art Lovers package at Chy an Carrack, with a luxury welcome gift bag including free Art in Cornwall book, suggested weekend itinerary and helpful hints for the best art venues to visit in and around St Ives – see Special Offers for more details.