Wilhelmina Barns-Graham

Zennor Rock - Rose II (1953)

About this artwork

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham’s paintings respond to geological formations and the natural environment, from seaside rocks to glaciers. This painting belongs to a group of studies inspired by the rock formations at Zennor, near St. Ives. The artist had a studio there and worked among the active artistic community in the area. In this painting, the paint has been scraped to produce a textured surface. This reveals the pencil lines underneath, which show that the work has been structured using geometrical proportions. The flattening of the picture space underlines the abstract nature of the painting, yet although abstract, Barns-Graham’s work takes the rhythms and forms of nature as its primary inspiration.

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham

Born in St Andrews, Barns-Graham studied at Edinburgh College of Art from 1932 to 1937, where she became interested in abstract art. She moved to St Ives in Cornwall in 1940, finding among the modernist artists who had settled there (including Naum Gabo, Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth) a sympathetic environment for her developing work. A visit to Switzerland in 1948 inspired a series of drawings and paintings of glaciers. Barns-Graham was captivated by the combination of their transparency and rough surfaces. From this time onwards she produced abstract compositions using geometrical forms, but with their origins in nature.