First full display at Penwith Galleries

Grey Sheds, 1947 and St Ives,1940 at Penwith Gallery

In May we announced that In recognition of Willie’s long standing relationship with and support of the Penwith Society of Artists the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust proposed that she is permanently represented on the walls of the Penwith Galleries. This was agreed and the first full display has now been installed. It represents Willie’s early years in St Ives. She arrived “after 7pm March 16th 1940 after awful journey 10.30 from Pad [sic]….pouring rain, + east wind. First words heard ‘the stars look too near the moon last night’ from cheery Cornish porter – means poor weather – certainly the next two days were awful.” She persevered and stayed on to live in St Ives for the next six decades!


Her drawings and paintings from these first years in St Ives reveal her Scottish heritage, particularly the formal art training she had received from Edinburgh College of Art – she graduated with her art diploma in 1937. Her painting technique, brushstroke and palette as well as her manner of drawing belie the training of her teachers who included some of the most important artists in 20th century Scottish art – S.J. Peploe, David Foggie, William Gillies and John (Johnnie) Maxwell. This presentation is a brief overview of her work from 1940 to 1947.


The display opens on Friday 17 November and will be up for a year, to be replaced by a new theme next November. This is the start of a rolling programme of displays of Willie’s work that will continue for the foreseeable future. It is good to see Willie’s work in the gallery which she supported for so many years. Sitting nearby are paintings by Borlase Smart, who helped her get her first studio in St Ives (No.3 Porthmeor Studios) in 1940, Bryan Wynter and Terry Frost, that illustrate the ambition of the gallery to exhibit historical work by St Ives artists reflecting the role that the gallery has had and continues to have in the story of art in St Ives.