St Ives and its beach
Map of St Ives, far SW tip of England
Railway poster, advertising Cornwall (what date?)
Even then, it took some time before art critics recognised the area as a centre for creativity. The first event that established the town on the national scene was when an art pottery studio was established in St Ives in 1920 by Bernard Leach. Then in 1928, painters Ben Nicholson (1894–1982) and Christopher Wood (1901–30) visited St Ives and loved what they saw. So I am suggesting that the 1920s was the first important decade in the development of the Cornish fishing port as an artists' colony.
Christopher Wood met and became quite close to Ben Nicholson in 1926 and soon moved to Cornwall to paint and to exhibit together. Wood said he painted coastal scenes because he loved the sea, he loved primitive landscapes and because his family had always messed around in boats. What a tragedy that he died, at his own hand, aged 29.
Formed in 1927, St Ives Society of Artists flourished in the 1930s and 1940s, attracting artists who'd painted in Cornwall either permanently or as a visitor. Members included some of my favourite C20th artists: Stanhope Forbes, Frank Brangwyn, Laura Knight, Sir Alfred Munnings and Stanley Spencer. Scottish artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham moved to St Ives in 1940, aged 28, and "went native".
Porthmeor Studios, overlooking St Ives' beach
Ben Nicholson married the sculptress Barbara Hepworth (1903–75) in 1938 and with the outbreak of World War 2 in 1939, they decided to settle in St Ives for the long term. They were soon joined by the Russian sculptor Naum Gabo (1890–1977). Gabo had moved from Russia to Munich and Paris (amongst other cities) for many years and didn’t settle in Britain until 1936. Locals looked on in amazement as the artists made sleepy old West Cornwall trendy.
Trewyn Studio, purchased by Nicholson and Hepworth in 1949, was no bigger than many other stone-built houses in the town. The war had ended and a new, younger generation of artists emerged, led by the star couple. This second generation of artists also made the Cornish coast their home and continued using the term The St Ives School. The 1950s were tough years for most Brits but St Ives’ modern artists were doing well.
Hepworth Museum, interior space
So St Ives is a stunning beautiful place for an art museum; plus it is totally appropriate for a Hepworth museum ...since she lived and worked in the town.
Hepworth Museum, garden sculptures
The Tate St Ives, facing the beach
Studio pottery from Bernard Leach, Pottery Cottage St Ives
Christopher Wood, St Ives Cornwall, 1928.