Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004) was one of the foremost British artists of the 20th century.
Wilhelmina Barns-Graham CBE, known as Willie, was born in St Andrews, Fife in 1912. Even as a child, she was determined to become an artist. In defiance of her father’s wishes, she enrolled at Edinburgh College of Art in 1931 and following graduation she moved to Cornwall. Having exchanged one dramatic coastal landscape for another, Barns-Graham began to immerse herself in the geography surrounding her, an approach that would come to shape her entire career.
In Cornwall she quickly became involved with the thriving artistic community, striking up friendships with Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Naum Gabo amongst others. She joined the Newlyn Society of Artists and St Ives Society of Artists, and after splitting from the latter, co-formed the more forward- thinking Penwith Society of Arts.
During the next twenty years, Barns-Graham travelled to Switzerland, Italy, Paris, and Spain. Following a short time teaching at Leeds School of Art and two years in London, she returned to live and work in St Ives. She subsequently inherited a house in St Andrews from her aunt and from 1960 went on to spend her summers in Cornwall and winters in Fife; it was these twin bases in the South West and Scotland, and her wider European travels, that would have a profound influence her work.