Wilhelmina Barns-Graham @ Waterhouse & Dodd

Nocturne, 1952, Oil on canvas, BGT408

First full WBG exhibition for Waterhouse & Dodd

An exciting new Wilhelmina Barns-Graham exhibition opens this week in London at Waterhouse & Dodd. This is the first major exposition of her work that the gallery has presented since becoming her London representatives, comprising examples from as early as 1940 (Minack Cliff Theatre, Porthcurno, 1940, BGT1281) through the decades to her last paintings from 2003 (Untitled – Scorpio Series, 1996, BGT3136). Inasmuch as it is a challenge to represent all aspects of her art  in a modestly scaled exhibition, this choice display does reveal her principal motifs and conceptual developments. One can clearly follow her thinking as she progresses from the tumbling squares and circles of the 1960s and 1970s (Blue Disks on Vermillion, 1967, BGT881), to the expanding forms of the 1980s (Expanding Forms – Coast: Touch Point Series No.6, 1981, BGT474 – recently seen at Maastricht art fair) that directly link to the dynamic Scorpio paintings of her final decade. Along the route one can see how the investigation of Cornish rocks forms of the 1950s (Autumns Rocks, 1952, BGT1130) are given a fresh and different perspective in those of Orkney from the late 1980s (Untitled – Orkney, 1988, BGT1983).  Wilhelmina Barns-Graham was a master at re-inventing herself, following threads of ideas, experimenting and constantly pushing new boundaries in her art.


The exhibition includes several larger paintings that have not been seen for decades, mainly as they had fallen into disrepair. These have now been conserved for this show – Nocturne (1952; BGT408); Green Squares on Black and White (1963; BGT390); Untitled – Tumbling Squares (c1962; BGT1002). Not in any way damaged and one of the largest is Two Pairs Complementaries of Equal Amount (1970; BGT6170) that extended the theme of Order and Disorder which begins with Green Squares and Tumbling Squares and was the predominant series of the period.


An interesting feature arising from the selection of pictures was the rediscovery of a 1940s View of St Ives Harbour on the reverse of a 1950s abstract. Untitled (Linked Forms Series) (c1950, BGT1876) reveals clear evidence that WBG was apt to re-use old canvases and illustrates that money and materials were hard for her to come by in St Ives in the years following the end of the war. This charming view is illustrated in the exhibition catalogue which features an introduction written by the renowned art writer Michael Bird (available from the gallery).


Exhibition: 7 June – 7 July 2017

Waterhouse & Dodd, 47 Albemarle Street, London W1S 4JW