Wilhelmina Barns-Graham painting given on centenary of artist's birth

  • 8 June 2012

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art has received a gift of work by one of the most admired painters of the St Ives School of Modern Art, on the centenary of the artist's birth.

Glacier Chasm, Wilhelmina Barms-Graham, 1951

Glacier Chasm, Wilhelmina Barms-Graham, 1951

To celebrate 100 years since Wilhelmina Barns-Graham's birth, the Barns-Graham Charitable Trust, the charitable body set up by the artist in 1987, has, through the Art Fund, given one of her most iconic paintings, Glacier Chasm to a Scottish public collection.

The artist

Barns-Graham arrived in the famous artist colony of St Ives in Cornwall in 1940, where she became friends with such major figures in 20th-century art as Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and the Russian sculptor Naum Gabo, who had a particularly strong influence on her. As the 1940s progressed Barns-Graham, together with many other St Ives artists, became increasingly interested in abstraction rather than figuration. In 1949 she travelled to Switzerland, to the Grindelwald Glacier near Berne, an encounter which went on to form the basis of a number of her most important paintings including this work from 1951, Glacier Chasm.

The work

This series marked a major turning point in Barns-Graham’s stylistic development, the experience of the glacier offering her a unique opportunity to explore the nature of interior and exterior forms. As she said of the aesthetic impact of Grindelwald, “The massive strength and size of the glaciers, the fantastic shapes, the contrast of solidity and transparency, the many reflected colours in the strong light…This likeness to glass and transparency, combined with solid rough ridges made me wish to combine in a work all angles at once, from above, through, and all round, as a bird flies, a total experience.”

More Wilhelmina Barns-Graham gifts

Glacier Chasm is the first in a small group of works by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham that the Barns-Graham Charitable Trust plans to give, through the Art Fund, to a number of public museums across the UK. Using its expert knowledge of UK museum collections and strong relationships with museums and galleries, the Art Fund will support the Barns-Graham Charitable Trust in donating a wide range of works by the artist for the British public to enjoy.

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