Catalogue entry

Victor Pasmore 1908-1998

Porthmeor Beach, St. Ives 1950

T00092

Ink on paper 240 x 289 (9 1/2 x 11 1/4)

Inscribed in pencil ‘VP.’ b.r. and in ballpoint pen ‘Victor Pasmore’ on back of original mount

Purchased from the artist (Grant-in-Aid) 1956

Exhibited:
Drawings for Pictures, Arts Council tour, Arts Council Gallery, London, Feb.-March 1953, Ferens Art Gallery, Hull, Liverpool College of Art, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, Plymouth City Art Gallery (40)
St. Ives: Twenty Five Years of Painting, Sculpture and Pottery, Tate Gallery, London, Feb.-March 1985(118, repr.)
Porthmeor Beach: A Century of Images, Tate St Ives, April-Oct. 1995 (no number)

Literature:
Tate Gallery Report 1956-7, London 1957, p.17
Alan Bowness, Burlington Magazine, vol.102, no.686, 1960, p.202
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, Tate Gallery: The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, II, London 1965, p.510

Reproduced:
Tom Cross, Painting the Warmth of the Sun: St Ives Artists 1939-1975, Penzance and Guildford 1984, p.135, pl.87

This is one of a number of drawings of Porthmeor Beach made by Pasmore during a brief stay in St. Ives, Cornwall in the summer of 1950. He had gone there on the invitation of Ben Nicholson, to whom he had been introduced the year before by Terry Frost - a student of Pasmore’s. At that time St. Ives was becoming well known as a centre for modern artists, in large part through the presence of Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth. Though he only visited once, Pasmore exhibited at the newly founded Penwith Society of Arts in 1950 and joined a few years later. His friend William Townsend recorded that the St Ives drawings consisted of ‘extremely simple designs for houses, rocks, cliffs and spiralling shapes of water’ and that a number were made into lithographs.[1] In 1996 the artist recorded only one related print - ‘a spiral version of waves’ - but its whereabouts was unknown.[2] Overlooked by artists’ studios, Porthmeor Beach has been a subject for a number of painters; Pasmore’s drawing was included in a display of such works at the Tate St Ives in 1995.

Despite a common linearity, the artist has insisted that these drawings were not studies for his black and white spiral paintings of 1950-1.[3] The best known of these were both produced for the Festival of Britain: Spiral Development: The Snowstorm, 1950-1 (Arts Council),[4] for the Arts Council’s 60 Paintings for ‘51 exhibition and The Waterfall (destroyed),[5] a ceramic mural in the Regatta Restaurant on the South Bank site. The motif of the spiral, the artist pointed out, had appeared in his work some time earlier, in the last of the Chiswick pictures.[6] However, on seeing the design for the mural in Pasmore’s studio on 26 October 1950 Townsend observed that it was ‘derived from drawings (of the sea) done by Victor during the summer in St. Ives’. The artist acknowledged that the rock forms of the foreground of the Porthmeor drawings, particularly those seen in the Arts Council’s Beach in Cornwall, 1950,[7] do reappear in The Snowstorm.[8] However, they may be seen to relate as much to the inter-locking forms of contemporary abstract painting, as seen in the work of Adrian Heath or Pasmore’s own Abstract in Brown, Black and Olive, 1950 (Arts Council).[9] While Pasmore denied suggestions that his Spiral Motif in Green, Violet, Blue and Gold: the Coast of the Inland Sea (Tate Gallery N06191) was related to Leonardo’s studies of water, the linear rhythm of the sea in Porthmeor Beach recalls Leonardo’s Hill Town with River (Windsor Castle), with which Pasmore might have been familiar through his friendship with Sir Kenneth Clark, cataloguer of the Leonardo drawings at Windsor. Porthmeor Beach was executed on light weight, low quality paper in blue-black writing ink, which has faded to brown. The paper, which is now evenly discoloured, was originally pasted on to low quality, brittle mounting board; it has been reframed and remounted. The ink was smudged in many places by the artist.


Chris Stephens
Feb. 1998


[1] Andrew Forge, ed., Townsend Journals, 1976, p.90
[2] Letter to the author, 19 Nov. 1996, Tate Gallery cataloguing files
[3] Letter to Tate Gallery, 27 Oct. 1957, Tate Gallery cataloguing files
[4] Repr. Alan Bowness and Luigi Lambertini, Victor Pasmore, with a Catalogue Raisonée of the Paintings, Constructions and Graphics 1926-1979, London 1980, p.91
[5] Repr. Victor Pasmore, ‘A Jazz Mural’ in Mary Banham and Bevis Hillier (eds.), A Tonic to the Nation: The Festival of Britain 1951, London 1976, p.102
[6] Letter to Tate Gallery, 27 Oct. 1957, Tate Gallery cataloguing files
[7] Repr. Arts Council Collection, London 1979, p.199
[8] Letter to Tate Gallery, 27 Oct. 1957, Tate Gallery cataloguing files
[9] Repr. Bowness and Lambertini 1980, p.295