The Alfred Wallis Factor: Conflict in Post-War St Ives Art

By David Wilkinson

A study of the life and legacy of the artist Alfred Wallis, his role in the art scene in St Ives and his emergence as a pivotal figure in British modernism.

ISBN: 9780718894979


Since his death in 1942, St Ives has become marinated in the spirit of the naïve painter, Alfred Wallis. Naum Gabo, the Russian Constructivist, felt that Wallis’s gift as an artist was that he never knew he was one. His unconventional approach and the innocence of his personal method of making art marked Alfred Wallis, even after his death, as a crucial figure in the modernist movement. The art scene in St Ives during World War II is depicted vividly in The Alfred Wallis Factor which illustrates the birth of modernism in the small fishing port in the far south-west of England.

With dominant personalities like Sven Berlin, Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Adrian Stokes, Bernard Leach, Terry Frost, Peter Lanyon, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham and Patrick Heron, it was inevitable that personal relationships would both form and fracture. Though causes would range from the banal to the bizarre, David Wilkinson never loses focus of the high stakes for which these characters were playing: the creation of their work, and reputations, of lasting significance. Their passion was strong and their ambition even stronger.

The Alfred Wallis Factor tells the story of this extraordinary painter’s long-lasting influence on – and beyond – modernism: David Wilkinson expounds the events around and following the artist’s death, assessing the roles of friends and rivals in making Alfred Wallis a benchmark of modern British art. The Alfred Wallis Factor is a comprehensive examination of a troubled era, in which life met war and changed the destiny of the art world.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 316
Illustrations b&w

 |   | 

Trade Information LGENPOD

About the Author

Before moving to St Ives in the early 1990s, David Wilkinson spent 30 years as a design and planning consultant in Berkshire. He has written extensively on late Victorian and Edwardian art and literature and has contributed to a number of books on St Ives art. His recent titles include ‘Guy Thorne’: C Ranger Gull: Edwardian Tabloid Novelist and his Unseemly Brotherhood (2012), Arthur Greening: That Damned Elusive Publisher (2016), The Death of a Hero: The Quest for First World War Poet Richard Aldington’s Berkshire Retreat (2016) and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska: The London Years, 1911-1914 (2018).


List of Illustrations
Foreword by Alan Livingston


Part 1: Alfred Wallis and the St Ives Milieu
1. Little Park Owles
2. The Market Garden
3. Temperamental Guests
4. Dunluce
5. The Alfred Wallis Factor
6. The Naum Gabo Factor

Part 2: Alfred Wallis: Final Days
7. The Workhouse
8. The Borlase Smart Link
9. Saved from a Pauper’s Grave
10. Gabo’s Grudge against Nicholson
11. Nicholson is Side-lined by Stokes and Gabo
12. Alfred Wallis’s Grave

Part 3: The Birth of the Alfred Wallis Factor
13. Berlin takes Alfred Wallis to Normandy
14. A Truce – of Sorts
15. The Harry Rountree Factor
16. The Further ‘Voyages of Alfred Wallis’
17. The Tower
18. The New Gallery
19. Berlin and Lanyon: A Cautious Meeting

Part 4: Power Struggles
20. King Penguin
21. Gudio Morris and The Latin Press
22. Anthony Froshaug Arrives
23. Gunpowder Plot
24. Turmoil at Little Park Owles
25. A Chilly Winter
26. A Special Crypt Exhibition
27. The Second Annual Crypt Exhibition

Part 5. Discord, Disunity and Disbandment
28. The Saga of the Red Lion
29. The Red Lion Emerges
30. Ructions at STISA’s AGM
31. The Third Annual Crypt Exhibition
32. Dissent in the Ranks
33. Lanyon in a Confrontational Mode
34. The Alfred Wallis Factor, Yet Again
35. The First Penwith Gallery
36. Munnings Shoots STISA in the Foot
37. The Discordant ‘ABC’ Rule
Part 6. The End of One Era and the Forging of a New
38. The Penwith Society’s Inaugural Exhibition
39. The Pendulum Swings Again
40. Lanyon is Taken to Task
41. Queen Jackdaw
42. Festival of Britain Plans
43. Repercussions of the ‘ABC’ Rule
44. The Penwith Society’s Spring Exhibition, 1950
45. The ‘ABC’ of Art
Part 7. The Final Chapters
46. Lyrics from Nancledra
47. The Cry of Stinking Fish
48. Berlin Moves Out
49. Festival of Britain Year
50. Cuckoo Town
51. Crescendo
52. The Circus Makes Ready to Leave
53. Lanyon’s Lonely Stance
54. The New Forest



Endorsements and Reviews

The Alfred Wallis Factor by David Wilkinson is the result of meticulous research. . . . [T]he ‘hard yards’ gained by the author will assist future researchers in their relentless quest to establish artistic quality, significance and influence.
Professor Alan Livingston, CBE

David Wilkinson gives a warts-and-all word picture of the post-war art scene in St Ives, just as it was. … [He] is to be praised for producing such a vivid, diverting, informative and surely definitive account … Generously illustrated … and profusely furnished with notes, this is a must-have book for everyone with an interest in the story of art in St Ives in particular, and that of Cornwall in general.
Frank Ruhrmund, on, 14 September 2017

As a social history of this segment of the art colony, it is unrivalled. … If you have any interest in this period of St Ives art, it is a book that you should own.
David Tovey, in The Siren, Issue 14, October 2017