AN iconic painting valued at £150,000, the work of St Andrews-born Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, has been given to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh.
It was presented last Friday by the Barns-Graham Charitable Trust, the charitable body set up by the artist in 1987 - through the Art Fund - to celebrate the centenary of her birth to the actual day.
One of her most iconic works, Glacier Chasm is the first of Barns-Graham’s significant glacier paintings to come into a Scottish public collection.
Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (June 8, 1912 – January 26, 2004) was one of the most admired painters of the St Ives School of British Modern art.
She arrived in the famous artist colony in Cornwall in 1940, where she became friends with such major figures in 20th century art as Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and the Russian sculptor Naum Gabo, who had a particularly strong influence on her. As the 1940s progressed, Barns-Graham, together with many other St Ives artists, became increasingly interested in abstraction rather than figuration.
In 1949 she travelled to Switzerland, to the Grindelwald Glacier near Berne, an encounter which went on to form the basis of a number of her most important paintings including Glacier Chasm from 1951.
With this one exception, the major paintings inspired by the Grindelwald Glacier are already in British public collections, including Tate, the British Council, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Sheffield Galleries & Museum Trust, and Southampton City Art Gallery. Glacier Chasm was the only example of this series retained by the artist, and now becomes the only glacier painting in a public collection in Scotland.
Barns-Graham studied at Edinburgh College of Art from 1931-37. She returned to St Andrews in 1960 when she inherited a house from her aunt, thereafter dividing her time between Cornwall and Fife.
Her St Andrews home, Balmungo House, is now a centre for the study of Barns-Graham within the context of Modern British Art. The Trust offers scholarships and bursaries to young artists and scholars of art in their higher education, in accordance with Barns-Graham’s aims in establishing it. The Trust also offers, through the Royal Scottish Academy and the University of St Andrews, residencies at Balmungo House for artists and writers.
Glacier Chasm is the first in a small group of works that the Barns-Graham Charitable Trust plans to give, through the Art Fund, to a number of public museums across the UK.
The painting is now on public view in the Great Hall of the SNG Two.