Overflow by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham

The author and critic Mel Gooding has referred to the drawings of Wilhelmina Barns-Graham as 'one of the most brilliantly distinctive bodies of graphic work in 20th-century British art'.


Ink and acrylic on card
39.5 x 27.2 cm
Art Fund grant:
£4,000 ( Total: £4,000)
Acquired in:
The Barns-Graham Charitable Trust

Of all the major 20th-century artists whose work was influenced by D’Arcy Thompson, Barns-Graham is unique in being the only one who actually knew him, having met him as a child in her native St Andrews. Despite this early encounter, it when she moved to St Ives and was introduced to pioneering abstract artists such as Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Naum Gabo that she first learned about On Growth & Form and began to be influenced by D’Arcy’s work. Like the older St Ives artists, his book helped her to recognise the hidden patterns and structures of nature (however apparently chaotic), which she began to explore in her work – she often referred to “things of a kind in order and disorder’. Her well-known series of mixed-media drawings based on wave formations is a perfect example of this, visualising D’Arcy’s idea that changes in physical form were due to forces acting upon it. Gooding writes: “These extraordinary descriptions of sea forms might better be described as meditative abstractions and reflective imaginings. They derive from deeply sensed knowledge of the ways in which energy finds its forms.” This is a powerful example, complex, forceful and (unusually for this series) rich in colour. Presented by the Art Fund and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation


The artist; Barns-Graham Charitable Trust

Venue details

University of Dundee Museum Collections Tower Foyer & Lamb Galleries, Tower Building, University of Dundee, DUNDEE Tayside DD1 4HN 01382 384310 www.dundee.ac.uk/museum

Entry details

Free to all

Tower Foyer & Lamb Galleries Mon-Fri, 9.30am – 7pm Sat, 1 – 5pm D’Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum Jun – Aug (or throughout the year by appointment) Fri, 2 – 4.30pm Artists’ Book Collection Dundee By appointment Mon – Fri, 10am – 6pm