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'.

Of all the major 20th-century artists whose work was influenced by DÂ’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 DÂ’ArcyÂ’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 disorderÂ’. Her well-known series of mixed-media drawings based on wave formations is a perfect example of this, visualising DÂ’ArcyÂ’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

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