Jerwood Foundation

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004)

Winter Landscape 1952, 1952

  • Details

    Courtesy of the Barns-Graham Charitable Trust
    signed and dated ‘W Barns-Graham ‘52’ (lower left); also signed on the frame

  • Medium

    oil and pencil on board

  • Dimensions

    19 x 22 cm. (7 ½ x 8 ¾ in.) [height by width] 27.5 x 29.2 cm to edge of painted mount (10 ¾ x 11 ½ in.) 31.8 x 33.7 cm framed (12 ½ x 13 ¼ in.)

  • Provenance

    Anonymous sale, Sotheby’s, London, 13 March 1974, lot 180, where acquired by the previous owner.
    Anonymous sale, Sotheby’s, London, 11 May 2012, lot 104, where purchased.

  • Exhibited

    Jerwood Gallery, Hastings (Room 3)

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (known as 'Willie') painted Winter Landscape 1952 after visiting the Grindelwald glacier in Switzerland in May 1949. This experience had a significant impact on her work and on her return to England Barns-Graham was inspired to draw and paint her 'Glacier Abstractions'. These works have been described by art historian Lynne Green as 'some of the most beautiful meditations on natural structures in twentieth century art '.

This painting, with its cool palette, overlapping lines and abstracted form, demonstrates Barns-Graham's ability to translate her experience of the glaciers onto canvas. She was affected by the glacier's form, by what she described as the 'massive strength and size of the glaciers, the fantastic shapes, the contrast of solidity and transparency'. This contrast inspired her to depict multiple viewpoints in her work, striving to 'combine in a work all angles at once, from above, through, and all round, as a bird flies’. In her paintings of the Grindelwald glacier Barns-Graham used the form of her paintings to convey what she described as ‘a total experience.'

Image: Courtesy of the Barns-Graham Charitable Trust

Born in St Andrews, Fife, Barns-Graham studied painting at the Edinburgh College of Art (1932-37). Like her fellow student and close friend William Gear, Barns-Graham was drawn to abstract, contemporary art during her time in Edinburgh. In 1937 she was awarded the ECA Andrew Grant Vacation Scholarship to study in Paris, and went on to visit America and travel extensively in Europe throughout her life, meeting many of the leading artists of the day. Barns-Graham moved to St Ives in 1940 and befriended the artists Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Naum Gabo. She was a member of the Newlyn Society of Artists (1942-2003), the St Ives Society of Artists (1942-1949), exhibited with the Crypt Group (1947), and was a founder member of the Penwith Society (1949).