• 30 January - 12 May 2024
  • British Museum, Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG
  • View Map
Lime and Flame, gouache on paper, 1958, British Museum © Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust

Lime and Flame, 1958, gouache on paper, British Museum

Explore the work of a leading member of the ‘St Ives School’ of artists, who blazed a trail in British art from the 1940s–60s.

In June 1985, the painter Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912–2004) wrote to the British Museum to express her ‘delight’ at the acceptance of two of her drawings to its collection. Almost 30 years later, the trust she set up in her name has now presented the Museum with 12 of her works on paper. They cover her entire artistic career from the 1940s to 2000, when, then in her late 80s, she was still energetically producing works.

Drawings from the gift reflect the variety in Barns-Graham’s work, which has often made her a difficult artist to categorise as she produced figurative works at the same time as experimenting with abstraction. Along with views of Cornwall, the donation includes an important study of Switzerland’s spectacular Grindelwald Glacier, which she visited in 1949, and later abstract drawings rendered in simple lines that are a breathtaking exercise in artistic restraint.

This major acquisition highlights the work of an artist who has often been overlooked. Barns-Graham’s male contemporaries such as Peter Lanyon and Patrick Heron have had considerably more recognition than her: this generous gift offers an opportunity to reappraise her contribution to British art.