A KENDAL art gallery is preparing a summer exhibition which will reveal how a Cornish village became a hotbed of artistic expression.
St Ives, in Cornwall, became home to a group of artists who took painting to dizzying new heights of vivid expression during the 1950s.
On June 26 Abbot Hall Art Gallery will open a summer show concentrating on five St Ives artists who used light, space and colour to create dazzling paintings of huge power and presence.
The first of these, Peter Lanyon, was the only true Cornishman by birth among his contemporaries. In the 1950s his painting became freer and looser, losing its direct geographical associations and becoming vertiginous in its exploration of air and space, reflected in the artist’s passion for gliding which ultimately led to his death in 1964.
Patrick Heron (his work Red Painting October featured above), a critic as well as a painter and an articulate spokesman for abstract art, also demonstrated a new sense of freedom inspired by his move to Eagle’s Nest, a house perched above the Zennor cliffs.
Roger Hilton was the most travelled of the artists and his seemingly effortless and spontaneous paintings combine loose lines and shapes that reference recognisable forms and figures – what the artist termed ‘allusive abstraction’.
Hilton’s good friend, Terry Frost (his work Straw and Purple Visage pictured below right), similarly used forms inspired by the landscape – both that of St Ives and Yorkshire - to create immensely satisfying compositions whose sense of space and harmony he continued to refine throughout his career.
The last artist featured, Bryan Wynter (his work Torrid Zone Region pictured above left), started the 1950s painting harbour scenes and local landscapes but by the end of the decade was creating dark, absorbing compositions that draw the viewer into their brooding world – a long way from the sunny seascapes that are often thought to characterise the painting from St Ives.
The period of painting explored in the exhibition is particularly pertinent for Abbot Hall, which opened its doors to the public in 1962.
Among the very first works acquired were contemporary paintings by these St Ives artists, some of whom the gallery’s first director, Helen Kapp, knew personally. These works now form a small but extremely important part of the permanent collection.
This exhibition will include works from major British collections, such as Tate, the British Council, Manchester Art Gallery, The Fitzwilliam Museum and the Arts Council, as well as numerous private lenders, and follows Abbot Hall shows devoted to key figures from the first generation of artists based in St Ives, most notably Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth.
Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, Cumbria LA9 5AL
Open 16 January 2015 - 14 February 2016 (closed 24, 25, 26 December and 1 January)
Monday - Saturday, 10.30am - 5pm (4pm Nov - Feb)
Adult admission £7 (without donation £6.35), free entry for students and children
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