St Ives School

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A loosely structured group of artists, flourishing particularly from the late 1940s to the early 1960s, who concentrated their activities in the Cornish fishing port of St Ives. Like Newlyn, St Ives had been popular with artists long before this (for example, Sickert and Whistler painted there together in the winter of 1883–4), but it did not become of more than local importance in painting and sculpture until Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson moved there in 1939, two weeks before the outbreak of the Second World War. They were anxious that their children should be safely outside London, and their friend Adrian Stokes, who lived at Carbis Bay (virtually a suburb of St Ives), invited the family to stay with him. Hepworth lived in St Ives for the rest of her life (her studio is now a museum of her work) and Nicholson (who had discovered Alfred Wallis on a day trip to St Ives in 1928) lived there until 1958. They formed the nucleus of a group of avant-garde artists who made the town an internationally recognized centre of abstract art, and it is to these artists that the term ‘St Ives School’ is usually applied, even though many of them had little in common stylistically, apart from an interest in portraying the local landscape in abstract terms. The one with the greatest international prestige was Naum Gabo, who lived in St Ives from 1939 to 1946. After the war a number of abstract painters settled in or near the town or made regular visits. The residents included Terry Frost and Patrick Heron; the visitors included Roger Hilton (who eventually settled in St Ives in 1965), Adrian Heath, and Victor Pasmore. Peter Lanyon (1918–64) was the only notable abstract artist to be born in St Ives. The heyday of the St Ives School was over by the mid-1960s, but the town continued to be an artistic centre. In 1993 the Tate Gallery opened a branch museum there, housing changing displays of the work of 20th-century artists associated with the town. The building includes a stained-glass window commissioned from Patrick Heron.

Subjects: Art.

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