St Ives is a UK centre for art, particularly sculpture and Modernist art. This idyllic Cornish oasis is home for one of the big four Tate Galleries situated alongside Porthmeor Beach and the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden housed within the artist's former studio. Artists have long been attracted to the light of Far West Cornwall. JMW Turner was captivated by the natural beauty of the area in the mid-1800s.
Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson arrived in St Ives in 1939, fleeing the London bombings at the outbreak of war. The purist geometric sculpture artist Naum Gabo joined them. Many of Britain's major 20th century Modernist artists have links to St Ives including Terry Frost who moved to St Ives in 1946, Peter Lanyon who was born in St Ives and was influenced first hand by Nicholson, Hepworth and Gabo, the Leeds born artist Patrick Heron who lived in St Ives from 1925 to 1930, and abstract artist Bryan Wynter, one of the St Ives Group of painters who settled in nearby Zennor in 1945. The Tate holds many works by these ground breaking Modernists who were influenced by Gabo and American Expressionism.
In her book 'A Pictorial Biography' (1970), Barbara Hepworth said, "Every shadow cast by the sun from an ever-varying angle reveals the harmony of the inside and outside". The light in fishing village St Ives attracted not just the 1930s Modernists, but before them JMW Turner, Whistler and Sickert. When Hepworth discovered Trewyn Studio with its stunning garden, which now houses the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, the artist was ecstatic......"Here I was in the middle of St Ives with a garden, a yard to work in with sun or moon above, and dreams of large works and freedom of action. Nobody around me has every complained of the sound of my hammer. I only have to walk 100 yards for the tools I need, and I can wander about in working clothes". (Barbara Hepworth, A Pictorial Autobiography, 1970). A superb collection of her work is on show here today including famous pieces such as 'Seated Woman with Clasped Hands' (1949).
Built on the site of the old St Ives gas works and overlooking stunning Porthmeor Beach, the Tate Gallery St Ives is a striking stark white structure designed by architects Eldred Evans and David Shalev - winners in 1990 of a competition to design the building. The three floor rotunda building is ingrained into the cliffs behind to great effect. The St Ives School of Artists feature strongly in changing exhibitions as well as work by major artists in British and international contemporary art. The gallery attracts over 200,000 visitors annually and has seen outstanding success since its opening in 1993. An exciting new Phase 2 extension project is currently in progress, expected to be completed in 2017.