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An artists' town

St Ives, a small Cornish town on the southwest coast of England, perhaps seems an unlikely site for a major art gallery. Its artistic connections however, date back to Victorian times, when artists visited St Ives to paint, attracted by its special quality of light and a new railway link easing access to the town.

During the Second World War, the artists Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, and Naum Gabo settled near St Ives. They were joined after the war by younger artists, establishing the town as an important artistic centre for the avant-garde and forming what has since been recognised as the St Ives School. Later visitors included artists of international renown such as the American abstract painter Mark Rothko.
Tate St Ives
Tate St Ives
  © Tate Archive 2003

Alfred Wallis

One of the artists most closely associated with St Ives was Alfred Wallis. Unlike most of the other resident painters, who had art school training and had moved to St Ives to live and work, Wallis had lived there for most of his life but only started painting when he was in his 70s. His subjects were mainly ships at sea and the town itself with its surrounding countryside. Wallis' untutored painting style was dismissed by locals, but the artist Ben Nicholson was among those inspired by the spontaneity of his work.

Alfred Wallis, The Hold House Port Mear Square Island Port Mear Beach,
?circa 1932  © Tate Archive 2003

Alfred Wallis, The Hold House Port Mear Square Island Port Mear Beach, ?circa 1932