SHARED HISTORY: The Art of Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, George Dannatt and John Wells
October 2 – 26, 2018
Waterhouse & Dodd, London
The exhibition focuses on three particular artists who have become indelibly linked to the history of art in St Ives; Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, John Wells and George Dannatt. These artists are comparatively neglected figures within that context and we will seek to explore both their place in the history of the St Ives artists and why their achievements are not more widely recognised. Dannatt’s role in the narrative is both as artist and patron to the other two artists. Wells and Barns-Graham were key figures in the early post-war period in St Ives. Both were very close to the Nicholson-Hepworth-Gabo axis, indeed Barns-Graham regularly worked alongside Nicholson in drawing trips and Wells served for a time as a studio assistant to Hepworth. Both greatly admired Gabo, as Dannatt recalled: “John Wells gladly acknowledged that debt to Naum Gabo, and he was well aware that Nicholson’s work had much affected his own.” Lynne Green notes that “The dialogue between interior and exterior, explicit in Naum Gabo’s work, was a central theme for the St Ives group. Hepworth explored it in three dimensions, Lanyon, Wells and Barns-Graham in two.”
With over 32 paintings is drawn exclusively from the holdings of the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust and the George Dannatt Trust (all exhibited works by John Wells are from the Dannatt collection). Many of the works have never been on public display before and although the artists were close – indeed Wells and Dannatt regularly exhibited together – this is the first time all three have been bought together in one themed exhibition. Our show will consist of early gestural abstracts by Barns-Graham and Wells and chart their respective developments into more geometric painting during the 1960s and 1970s. We also will examine how Dannatt learnt from them to develop his own personal style. The show ends poignantly with Barns-Graham’s tribute to her recently departed friend, Johnny Wells, with her 2002 screen-print ‘Homage to Johnny’.