Creative Tensions Exhibition

14 Sep 2019 to 16 Nov 2019
Box Factory Fire, 1948 Wilhelmina Barns-Graham © Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust
Penlee Gallery
Penlee Gallery
Morrab Rd
Penzance
Cornwall
TR18 4HE
Accessible
A new exhibition at Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance marks the 70th anniversary of a seismic event

In 1949, a group of artists, known as the ‘St Ives Rebels’ broke away from the St Ives Society of Artists to found a new group, the Penwith Society of Arts in Cornwall. 

The exhibition, Creative Tensions will look at the first decade of the Society and the range of work produced by its founder members, many of the greatest names of 20th century British art, including Wilhelmina Barns Graham, Barbara Hepworth, Peter Lanyon, Bernard Leach and Ben Nicholson.

With the arrival of Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth in August 1939, St Ives became the focus for new, young avant-garde painters and sculptors. Encouraged to join the St Ives Society of Artists by Robert Borlase Smart, the Society’s Secretary, the newcomers soon discovered they were not always welcome. It was not long before tensions developed.

The death of Smart in 1947 led to nineteen artists breaking away to form their own Society in 1949: the Penwith Society of Arts in Cornwall. A lease was taken on a large first floor space in Fore Street, St Ives and by the end of the year the Society had greatly expanded.

Nevertheless creative tensions remained, partly due to the fact that two groups were identified - representational and abstract artists, leading to a number of rapid, and public, resignations. Yet the Penwith Society soon became the leading gallery in the country for showing modernist art.

Creative Tensions brings together paintings, sculpture, ceramics and decorative art from the leading lights of the St Ives scene in the 1950s.  Works by Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Bernard Leach, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Peter Lanyon, Patrick Heron and Bryan Wynter will be exhibited alongside less well-known artists, including Marion Grace Hocken, Misomé Peile, Isobel Heath, Tom Early and David Haughton.

The exhibition has been curated in collaboration with the Penwith Gallery, St Ives, where they will be hosting their 70th Anniversary exhibition from 5 October to 2 November.

Creative Tensions will be on show throughout the ground floor of Penlee House, with a selection of Newlyn School paintings on display upstairs in Gallery 5.

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