Annual Lecture Series

The Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust sponsors an annual lecture given in Wilhelmina Barns-Graham’s name. Each lecture explores the latest research and thinking on Wilhelmina Barns-Graham and related themes, and takes place at one our partner venues.


Two black and white photos of a man looking into a mirror and a women looking towards the camera next to a window

Annual Lecture 2023

Dr Rachel Rose Smith | Friendship and painting as profession: Wilhelmina Barns-Graham and Ben Nicholson

When they met in 1940, Nicholson was 45, with several solo exhibitions under his belt, as well as an international spread of artworld contacts. Barns-Graham was 27 and only recently emerged from Edinburgh College of Art. Despite differences in their positions and circumstances, both artists seem to have developed equally a friendship based on mutual respect and a keen eye on each other’s painting. This illustrated talk will look at interactions between Barns-Graham and the elder artist as a means of probing their similarities and differences and the complicated nature of artists’ relationships to places and to their professional neighbours in wartime and post-war St Ives.

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Three paintings grouped on an orange background. From left to right: an oil painting of seaweed, rocks and a long snaking orange object on a white background; an acrylic painting of grey rocks with orange at centre; an oil painting of an abstracted geometric cliff edge resembling a face

Previous Annual Lectures

The series was initiated in 2007, with a gap between 2012 and 2017, and 2020 to 2022 due to the pandemic. The Trust also provides or sponsors talks for the touring exhibitions available for hire to public galleries and museums.

Colour photograph of Pete Nienow from shoulders up. He wears a dark green coat with fur edged hood and ski goggles on his head. Snow and blue sky are in the background

Annual Lecture 2022

Professor Pete Nienow | Art and ice loss: a personal and scientific reflection mourning rapid glacier loss in the Alps

Professor Nienow considers the scientific background to and evidence for the recent dramatic ice loss from the European Alps, so close to the heart of Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, placing some of these changes in the context of his personal research and sense of loss, informed by over two years spent living in the forefield of the Haut Glacier d’Arolla, Switzerland.

Recorded at Fruitmarket on 12 November 2022

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Professor Pete Nienow, a glaciologist from the University of Edinburgh, delivered his lecture,  Art and ice loss: a personal and scientific reflection mourning rapid glacier loss in the Alps, to coincide with the installation of Mark Cousins’ Like a Huge Scotland at Fruitmarket on 12 November.


Alice Strang gave this year’s lecture on A Scottish Artist in St Ives and a Portuguese Artist in London: How Wilhelmina Barns-Graham and Paula Rego Triumphed in the British Art World. It was held at Barns-Graham’s alma mater, Edinburgh College of Art on 5 September.


The 2018 lecture was given by Michael Bird at the Mall Galleries on 27 June. The theme of his lecture was The Kitchen Sink Too: Voices from Artists’ Lives.


The Barns-Graham Charitable Trust lecture was presented by Roger Bristow on Monday 7 November. The lecture venue was The Fleming Collection, London and the talk was The Two Roberts – Colquhoun and MacBryde.


The annual lecture took place on Thursday 9 December.  Presented by Dr Martin Hammer, Reader in the History of Art at the University of Edinburgh, the venue was the Hawthornden Lecture Theatre at the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh. The topic, Francis Bacon’s Painting (1946): The Making of a Masterpiece focused on the various impulses that went into the creation of one of his most important early pictures, including its enigmatic references to 1930s Nazi propaganda imagery in the aftermath of the Second World War.


The lecture was given by Mel Gooding at The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds, to coincide with the exhibition A Discipline of the Mind: The Drawings of Wilhelmina Barns-Graham which Gooding curated.


The second lecture was given by Mel Gooding who presented his overview of Wilhelmina Barns-Graham’s work. It was hosted by the National Galleries of Scotland.


The inaugural lecture was presented by Nedira Yakir on the work of Wilhelmina Barns-Graham.  It was hosted by University College Falmouth.