Although they did not see themselves as part of a group or school, the term St Ives School is often used to refer to the artists associated with the fishing town of St Ives in West Cornwall, which became a centre for modern and abstract developments in British art from the 1940s to the 1960s
- Introduction to the St Ives School
- St Ives School artists in focus
- St Ives School in context
- Other perspectives
- St Ives School in detail
West Cornwall’s special quality of light has drawn painters to St Ives since the beginning of the nineteenth century. However the extension of the Great Western Railway to West Cornwall in 1877, which eased access to the remote town, made St Ives an even more appealing as a destination for artists.
In 1928 the artists Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood visited St Ives where they met naïve artist Alfred Wallis, whose painting was to have a profound impact on Nicholson, confirming the modern direction of his work. In 1939 at the outbreak of the Second World War, Nicholson and his then wife the sculptor Dame Barbara Hepworth, both by then fully fledged abstract artists, settled near St Ives, where they were soon joined by the Russian constructivist sculptor Naum Gabo. After the war St Ives became a centre for modern and abstract developments in British art led by Hepworth and Nicholson (Gabo departed in 1946).
From about 1950 there gathered in St Ives a group of younger artists and it is with this group, together with Hepworth and Nicholson (until his departure in 1958), that the term St Ives School is particularly associated. As well as a shared interested in abstraction, the St Ives artists were also inspired the by the landscape of West Cornwall and used its shapes, forms and colours as a source for much of their work. The principal figures of the St Ives School include Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Paul Feiler, Sir Terry Frost, Patrick Heron, Roger Hilton, Peter Lanyon, Karl Weschke and Bryan Wynter, together with the pioneer modern potter, Bernard Leach.
The heyday of the St Ives School was in the 1950s and 1960s but in 1993, Tate St Ives, a striking purpose-built new gallery in a remarkable situation on Porthmeor Beach in St Ives, was opened. It exhibits the Tate collection of St Ives School art and related types of art, and has given the town a whole new lease of artistic life.
- See artworks associated with the St Ives School in Tate’s collection
- Or browse the slideshow below for an introduction to the St Ives School
Alfred Wallis: Two Boats Work of the Week, 07 June 2010
Alfred Wallis’s Two Boats was painted on the lid of a box. Find out more about the humble work that inspired one of Britain’s leading abstract artists and helped pave the way for the establishment of the St Ives School.
1928: A Cornish Encounter
The display page for this 2012 Tate display revisits the 1928 encounter between Ben Nicholson, Christopher Wood and Alfred Wallis, which sparked the emergence of the St Ives School.
The Real St Ives story
This Tate Etc. article explores the more subversive and anarchic side of the Tate Ives School.
Ben Nicholson: Pioneer of abstraction
Ben Nicholson: A Continuous Line
This online exhibition guide to the 2009 exhibition at Tate Britain includes an interactive timeline of teh artist’s life and work.
Tate Archive 40 | 1987 Ben Nicholson ‘The Boy Who Never Grew Up’
David Pilling’s blog introduces a letter from Tate’s archive written by J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, to Ben Nicholson in relation to a poster the artist had designed as a young man for a stage play of the story.
Scratching the surface
This fascinating Tate etc. article provides an insight into Ben Nicholson’s technique (as heard by David Lewis through the thin walls of Nicholson’s studio!)
Ben Nicholson in Tate’s collection
See artworks by the artist in Tate’s collection
Barbara Hepworth: Nature into sculpture
Who is Barbara Hepworth?
Find out about the life, work and legacy of Barbara Hepworth in this introduction to the artist.
Delve into Tate’s archive and discover some of the letters Barbara Hepworth wrote from her studio
Barbara Hepworth: How to string a sculpture?
Barbara Hepworth began to incorporate ‘string’ into her sculpture in 1939, curator Inga Fraser explores her innovative approach in this blog.
Hepworth the internationalist
This feature discusses how Hepworth became a major international artist, showing in museums and commercial galleries across the world from a relatively young age.
Peter Lanyon: Abstract landscapes
Explore the artist and his work in this TateShots video made during the 2010 exhibition of the artist’s work at Tate St Ives:
Cornwall inside out
Lanyon was the only native-born Cornishman of the post-war St Ives group of artists, and his work reflected the local landscape with a painterly experimentation unmatched by his peers…this article explores the influence of a very different landscape on the artist’s work.
Peter Lanyon in Tate’s collection
See artworks by the artist in Tate’s collection.
Dawn of a colony
Discover the nineteenth century artists who visited St Ives, paving the way for its later artist inhabitants, in this online guide to this 2008 Tate St Ives exhibition.
Abstraction sans frontières
Explore the international context which shaped the work of artists in the Cornish town from the 1940s to 1960s
Watch this rare and intimate insight into the home life of Hepworth and Nicholson, glimpsed in this home movie footage of their home and family.
Tate St Ives: how artists and the town have shaped each other
In this blog, writer Janet Axten looks back at the journey from her first view of paintings by St Ives artists to the international recognition of the town’s artistic heritage today.
The house that Ben built
In this Tate Etc. article Jenny Seton, the daughter of the St Ives-based artist and friend of Ben Nicholson recalls the doll’s house she used to play with which was made by Ben Nicholson and now resides in Tate’s archive.
My brother’s brush with silk
Before becoming known for his colourful abstract paintings, St Ives School artist Patrick Heron flourished as a textile designer. His brother shares his memories of the painter’s formative years in this Tate Etc.article.
The Studios at the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, St Ives
Watch experts from the worlds of conservation, performance, textiles and archaeology discuss the preserved studios at the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden at St Ives.
Figure and Landscape: Barbara Hepworth’s Phenomenology of Perception
This in-depth research article explores Barbara Hepworth’s development of the figure in landscape theme, to which she turned increasingly after moving to St Ives in 1939, in the context of the phenomenological philosophy of Maurice Merleau-Ponty.
Representation and Reputation: Barbara Hepworth’s Relationships with her American and British Dealers
This research article explores Barbara Hepworth’s attempts to raise her profile in America, and how it was frustrated by her reluctance to form relationships with new supporters.