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THIS is the remarkable catalogue-cum-dictionary produced to accompany a year-long touring exhibition (June 21 2003-July 2004), curated by the author, of the great, the good and the not so good members of the St Ives Society.

There are names we know well, those we have heard of, and of quite a number who slipped silently away from their easels to lead lives of artistic obscurity.

There are detailed biographical notes on more than 300 artists involved with the society from 1927-1952, a period which saw the society’s membership include nearly all surviving artists who had lived, worked or studied in Cornwall – all you every wanted to know but were afraid to ask about art in St Ives.

Splashing around in its 344 pages, David Tovey’s introduction mentions the society’s mounting tensions between traditionalists and modernists, which came to a head in 1949 when some of the moderns resigned en masse. David Tovey continues this theme in his introduction: “The attitude of Tate, St Ives, since its establishment a decade ago... continues to promote St Ives modernists within its collection while totally ignoring the first 50 years of the colony.” But they’re all in here, trads and mods: Stanhope Forbes, Lamorna Birch, Dod Proctor, Bernard-Fleetwood Walker and the rest, with the mods coming in with Peter Lanyon, Terry Frost, Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth. Step forward, too, Misomé Peile, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham and the colourful ex-adagio dancer Sven Berlin (1911-1999), who said on first seeing the work of Cornish artist Alfred Wallis that it “was like hearing Beethoven for the first time”.
Terrific reference on Cornish art, including entries which are the most complete summaries known on an artist, plus plenty of illustrations.