Taking Flight: St Ives in the 1950s
26 June – 3 October 2015
Exploring how this small Cornish fishing town became the centre of modern art during the 1950s.
In the years after the development of the Great Western railway, artists began to flock to St Ives to set up their own studios where they could paint, create and sculpt free from the constraints of the London scene. Led by pioneers such as Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth, the work that emerged from the colony became increasingly abstract – and truly modern.
This show focuses on five artists from the second generation of the St Ives set, who came to prominence in the mid 20th-century; Peter Lanyon, Patrick Heron, Roger Hilton, Terry Frost and Bryan Wynter. Although inspired by the surrounding area, this group of artists moved away from literal depictions of the landscape to create freer compositions, populated with spontaneous lines and looser forms. Each painter's work is explored in detail, from Heron's horizontal stripe series to Wynter's dark and brooding scenes, so unlike typical depictions of the sunlit seaside.
This period of British practice holds particular significance to Abbot Hall. When the gallery opened to the public in 1962 contemporary paintings by the St Ives artists were among the very first works acquired; the gallery’s first director, Helen Kapp, knew many of them personally. The paintings continue to form a small but extremely important part of the permanent collection.