Bringing the greatness of St Ives to Harrogate

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham.
Wilhelmina Barns-Graham.

FOR anyone who’s visited Tate St Ives will know, it comes as a bit of a shock, after the initial stunning impression set by the bold design of the building, to see how little of the gallery space is devoted to work by the St Ives School itself, though it’s possible I may have simply caught it on an off-day.

Now, thanks to a Harrogate gallery of modern and contemporary art, you can see a stunning collection by one of its finest practitioners without having to leave the district.

Tonight, Friday, 108 Fine Art is holding a champagne reception for the launch of a major centenary exhibition of the work of Wilhelmina Barns-Graham.

Barns-Graham was a pivitoal figure in the St Ives School in its heyday in the 1940s and 50s, working in the town alongside the likes of Patrick Heron, Terry Frost and Roger Hilton.

The exhibition, subtitled from St Andrews to St Ives, features dozens of original artworks by the artist, many of which have not previously been exhibited or offered for sale.

It follows on from the late artist’s successful London show at The Fleming Collection, London, and is a collaborative project in association with The Barns-Graham Charitable Trust.

Born in St. Andrews Wilhelmina Barns Graham attended Edinburgh College of Art, 1931-37.

In 1940 she moved to St. Ives where she joined the Newlyn School and The St. Ives Society, becoming a founder member of the Penwith Society in 1949.

During this period she became friends with Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, and Naum Gabo, becoming one of the foremost painters working in St Ives.

Between 1956-57 she taught at Leeds College of Art. From 1960 she divided her time between her homes in St. Ives and St. Andrews, affirming herself as much a Scottish as Cornish artist.

She was completely dedicated to her art, with a drive and energy that sustained her for more than 60 years.

She exhibited regularly with galleries throughout the UK, from the Downing Gallery in St Ives to the Pier Arts Centre in Stromness, Orkney.

The first major retrospective exhibition of her work was the 1989-90 touring exhibition W. Barns-Graham Retrospective 1940-1989 from The City Art Centre in Edinburgh, travelling to Newlyn Art Gallery in Penzance.

Her work is to be found in all major public collections in the UK including the Tate Gallery, Arts Council and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

The private invitation champagne reception takes place tonight, Friday from 6-8pm at Cold Bath House, 16 Cold Bath Road.

l The exhibition continues at 108 Fine Art until June 2.

l The opening times are Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-5.30pm at 1 Crown Place and by arrangement. Telephone: 01423 709108/07798 908857 or visit