University of St Andrews

University Library Special Collections

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (msdep132)

Images of the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham collection

Willie, as she was known, was an abstract artist, raised in St Andrews and Carbeth in Stirlingshire, who defied family opposition to realise her ambition of becoming an artist. After studying at Edinburgh School of Art she was advised to move to Cornwall for her health, and arrived in St Ives in 1940, just at the start of its artistic renaissance. She played an important role in the development of the art scene there through the St Ives Group, the Newlyn and Penwith Societies, and socialised with Borlase Smart, Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Naum Gabo, Peter Lanyon, Bernard Leach, Phyllis Bottome and others. Her art became increasingly abstract as she sought for the perfect understanding of form and substance. After 1960 she divided her time between Porthmeor Studios in St Ives and her aunt’s estate at Balmungo just outside St Andrews.

The archive is deposited with Special Collections by the Barns-Graham Trust, and is generally open for research but requests for certain items, such as Willie’s diaries, will have to be referred to the Trust for permission.

View the archive catalogue entry for the Barns-Graham Collection (please note the list is still a work in progress).

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