By 1918 St Ives had a long tradition as an artists’ community. It took as its standard the Royal Academy, which retained great popular appeal, but was neither forward-looking nor progressive. In 1920 it became the permanent home of one of the great innovators of the twentieth century, the potter Bernard Leach. At the outbreak of the Second World War it provided shelter for a small group of the most progressive painters and sculptors, including notably Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth, already leaders in the advanced art movements of the 1930s, and committed to the principle of abstraction. In the 1940s and 1950s a remarkable group of younger artists came together in and around St Ives, making it a centre of avant-garde art activity.
This book is concerned with those artistic events, especially during the years 1939-75, and the larger circumstances in the world of art by which they were affected, or which were affected by them. It describes the singular contribution of ‘St Ives’ to the art of our time.