Provincetown / St Ives – the names of these two towns resonate with the romanticized image of a retreat where artists gather, discuss, experiment and create. We will pair these two important artistic communities together, something which has not been done before. Both art colonies have played a significant role in the evolution of American and British C.20th art - microcosms of the larger art world, these towns have both welcomed and resisted new art movements.
Attracted by the incredible light and colorful surroundings, the Provincetown art colony came into being when Charles Webster Hawthorne opened his Cape Cod School of Art in the summer of 1899 and by 1915 as many as 90 students were enrolled to learn his style of painting en plein air. In 1935 Hans Hofmann opened his Summer School of Art, teaching and painting here for 30 years. His classes grew large in the post-war years, and artists of all styles crowded into his Friday critiques. From the '40s to the '50s, Provincetown was a summer centre of Abstract Expressionism, represented by such painters as Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell and Helen Frankenthaler in addition to Hofmann. Milton Avery summered in Provincetown during the 50’s and early 60’s and produced the large evocative canvases of the sea, sky, and dunes that are the triumph of his career.
Meanwhile, in 1939, Ben Nicholson with his wife Barbara Hepworth and friend Naum Gabo moved to St. Ives on the western tip of Cornwall, to escape the dangers of wartime London. The convergence of talent within this small community, diffused by the exceptional light, wild weather and coastal landscapes fuelled an outpouring of creative energy which positioned St. Ives as a crucial centre of British Modernism.
The growing international status of Hepworth and Nicholson attracted a second wave of artists to St. Ives. Also influenced by the scent of Abstract-Expressionism drifting over the Atlantic, artists such as Patrick Heron, Peter Lanyon, Roger Hilton and William Scott were all drawn to the spectacular Celtic landscape and luminosity of west Cornwall.
We hope our exhibition, to be presented first at the Armory Fair in New York and then at the gallery in London, will prove the existence of a Special Relationship between these two sea-side towns and the significant part they play in the development of international Modern art.