photo: © Rikard Österlund

Room 1 in Modern Art and St Ives

Gallery One

Image II

Dame Barbara Hepworth, Image II  1960

'Image II' is rooted in Barbara Hepworth's lifelong engagement with carving. In the 1930s she had pierced abstract forms, introducing light and transforming their sense of mass. Even the substantial 'Image II' (weighing more than 400 kg) appears effortlessly lightened as a result of its undercutting, its concavities and the penetrating hole. Hepworth explained: 'I believe that the dynamic quality of the surfaces of a sculpture can be increased by devices which give one the impression that a form has been created by forces operating within its own mass as well as from outside... the piercing of mass is a response to my desire to liberate mass without departing from it.

Gallery label, August 2004

© Bowness

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Mackerel on a Plate

William Scott, Mackerel on a Plate  1951–2

Describing his paintings, Scott said 'I find beauty in plainness, in a conception which is precise, a simple idea which to the observer must inevitably shock and leave a concrete image on the mind.' He became interested in painting realist still-lifes in the 1930s, often portraying the kitchen implements that he kept around his studio. He considered his work to be influenced by the French still-life tradition, particularly the eighteenth-century artist Chardin. As he developed, the objects became flatter and later in the 1950s became abstract shapes.

Gallery label, August 2004

© The estate of William Scott

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Porthleven

Peter Lanyon, Porthleven  1951

This work exemplifies Lanyon’s idea of the ‘experiential landscape’, which involved approaching a place from different positions and combining these views with allusions to geology, history, culture and myth. Here he depicts the fishing port of Porthleven from several perspectives, revealing its two harbours and clock tower. Lanyon later identified a human presence in the work, reading the shape on the left as a fisherman with lamp and his wife wrapped in a shawl on the right. Influenced by the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung and his theories of the unconscious, the artist saw these as figures embodying the cultural identity of his home.

Gallery label, May 2007

© Tate

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Feb 28-53 (vertical seconds)

Ben Nicholson OM, Feb 28-53 (vertical seconds)  1953

This picture exemplifies Nicholson's recurrent practice of using contrasting areas of flat, vibrant colour with a pale ground that has been scrubbed and distressed. The bright patches of red and yellow act as focus points, and perhaps bring to mind late landscapes by J.M.W. Turner, such as those in the next room, which are similarly 'centred' by bright points of the same colours. But Nicholson would primarily have had in mind the grid-like abstracts of Mondrian, whom he greatly admired. There is a remarkable consistency in the way that Nicholson formulated his abstract designs, from his first such exercises in the 1920s (such as the picture displayed elsewhere in this room)though to the 1950s and '60s.

Gallery label, August 2004

© Angela Verren Taunt 2020. All rights reserved, DACS

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Green and Purple Painting with Blue Disc : May 1960

Patrick Heron, Green and Purple Painting with Blue Disc : May 1960  1960

In this work, an irregular blue disc hovers in front of a field of green and purple, seeming to expand and contract within the flat picture plane. Even when he eliminated recognisable subject matter, Heron’s abstractions stemmed from his observations of the visual world. He denied that he consciously painted ‘landscapes’, but affirmed: ‘the enormously powerful rhythmic energies of the granite outcrops beneath my feet transmit certain rhythms straight up through the soles of my shoes every minute of the day.’

Gallery label, May 2007

© The estate of Patrick Heron

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Riverbed

Bryan Wynter, Riverbed  1959

Wynter made his paintings with hundreds of brushmarks intersecting and laid over one another. This approach related him to the art informel movement or tachisme then prevalent in France. These laid emphasis on the matter of paint itself and the gestural marks made in response to one another.
Wynter, who lived isolated on the moors of Cornwall, was fascinated by nature. His painting technique deliberately echoed natural processes of flow and erosion. Here the lighter brushstrokes seem to flow around larger areas like water around rocks – hence the work’s title.

Gallery label, November 2016

© The estate of Bryan Wynter

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February 1954

Roger Hilton, February 1954  1954

Hilton made a number of paintings like this which were said to have been influenced by the work of Piet Mondrian. In Amsterdam a little earlier, Hilton had seen Mondrian’s abstract compositions of primary colours inserted into black and white grids. Hilton laid his paint on in thick areas which abut, avoiding any overlap or mixing of paint. In this way he stresses the physical presence of the painting as an object. Typically, however, one can still discern references to the human body; the black areas have been read as references to arms, legs and breasts.

Gallery label, February 2010

© The estate of Roger Hilton

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The Harbour

William Scott, The Harbour  1952

The Harbour 1952 is made of black and white oil paint on canvas. The composition is dominated by a slightly curving black band that reaches about four fifths of the way across the middle of the painting from left to right. A small square of black occupies the top left-hand corner. A thinly painted, narrow black line stretches out from that square across the full width of the canvas and there is another, with four vertical lines beneath it, in the lower part of the composition. Within these black elements white paint has been applied in a generous manner to give a luscious, richly textured surface. For the most part, the white and black paint do not touch and bare ground can be seen between the two elements.

© reserved

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Tall Country and Seashore

Peter Lanyon, Tall Country and Seashore  1951

© The estate of Peter Lanyon

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Sandra Blow, Selva Oscura  1993

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Sir Terry Frost, Mars and Linen 1961  1961

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Art in this room

Image II
Dame Barbara Hepworth Image II 1960
Mackerel on a Plate
William Scott Mackerel on a Plate 1951–2
Porthleven
Peter Lanyon Porthleven 1951
Feb 28-53 (vertical seconds)
Ben Nicholson OM Feb 28-53 (vertical seconds) 1953
Green and Purple Painting with Blue Disc : May 1960
Patrick Heron Green and Purple Painting with Blue Disc : May 1960 1960
Riverbed
Bryan Wynter Riverbed 1959

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