Wilhelmina Barns-Graham in the 1940s

As a former Trustee of the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust I was delighted to contribute to a series of films they are making about each decade of her important, long and prolific career.

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004), Studio Interior (Red Stool), 1945
Collection and (c) The Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust

I was invited to talk about a work she made in the 1940s. Without hesitation I chose Studio Interior (Red Stool) of 1945. She painted it on moving into 1 Porthmeor Studios in St Ives. It is an affectionate portrait of the space in which she established her reputation as a pioneer of British Abstraction. A blank canvas on an easel, beside a prepared palette, awaits her attention. Two further canvases are ready to be used nearby in an otherwise empty studio. It is an image full of potential, optimism and excitement.

Being filmed by Cassia Pennington of the Barns-Graham Charitable Trust, December 2020 Photo by Rob Airey

After months of lockdown it was a delight to visit the Trust’s premises in Edinburgh and to see the painting in real life. It was displayed on one of the artist’s easels in the midst of her library.

Opening frame of Barns-Graham: Decade by Decade – 1940s film on youtube, January 2021

You can watch the result of that visit and learn more about the painting here. I am even wearing a scarf based on Barns-Graham’s Red Painting of 1957, also in the Trust’s collection!

This is a feature about Barns-Graham’s studios and you might also enjoy this about her works in the collection of Pallant House Gallery, Chichester.

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