Arts and Culture

Fine Arts: Four Giants of British Modernism On Exhibit at Beaux Arts London

An exhibition of celebrated British modern artists is being mounted at Beaux Arts London where they will present Four Giants of British Modernism, the artists are : Terry Frost, William Scott, Peter Lanyon and Patrick Heron.

This exhibition will feature five to six works from each of the Post Second World War modernists, sourced from private collections. Beaux Arts Gallery worked with the late artists Frost, Scott, Lanyon and Heron during their careers and this exhibition offers a retrospective of some of their greatest works created as they revolutionised British Art.

Pioneers of British Abstract Art Post War

These four artists lived and worked through the harsh time of post war Britain, and through their art sought to convey a new world of hope. They were pioneers of British Abstract Art and were associated with the celebrated St. Ives School along with Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Roger Hilton, Bernard Leach and many others.

In the wake of the war, St. Ives, a fishing village in West Cornwall began to attract a wide range of young emerging artists drawn to its breath-taking scenery and clarity of light, owing to its peninsula positioning. Beaux Arts’ first gallery, Will’s Lane Gallery, was located there and thus became a central platform for exhibiting the work of artists of the St. Ives school from the early 1970s. While each of the artists had varied upbringings, they all had profound connections with Cornwall.

Artist Peter Lanyon

Peter Lanyon – Blue Day

Peter Lanyon was born in St. Ives to a Cornish family. In 1939 he began studying under Ben Nicholson before serving with the Royal Air Force in 1940-45. Lanyon used paint, collage, construction and pottery to create works that drew on elements of Constructivism through Abstract Expressionism and in some cases Pop Art. Visiting Mexico had a huge influence on Lanyon’s work in this show, as did his hobby of gliding, which eventually caused his early death at the age of 46.

Artist Patrick Heron

Patrick Heron - Big Violet with Red and Blue
Patrick Heron – Big Violet with Red and Blue

Patrick Heron was born in Leeds and studied at the Slade School of Art in London, taking up permanent residence in Cornwall after the war. In Heron’s work the fields, rocks and trees of the St. Ives’ coast are visible. He also made great use of the light quality of the area, which helped him develop his distinctive colour palette. Heron’s modernist ideas manifested through his work and its accompanying critical writings.

Artist William Scott

William Scott – Pyramid – 1965

William Scott was born in Scotland and joined the army in 1942. While in the Royal Engineers he learned lithography through map making, which later influenced his work. He visited the United States of America in 1953, while there, met artists Rothko, De Kooning, Klein and Pollock. In 1984 he was elected a Royal Academician. Scott’s work often blurs the boundaries between still life and abstract. Scott said of his work: “I am an abstract artist in the sense that I abstract. I cannot be called non-figurative while I am still interested in the modern magic of space, primitive sex forms, the sensual and the erotic, disconcerting contours, the things of life.”

Artist Terry Frost

Terry Frost With Lacing 1024×1021

Terry Frost was brought up by his grandparents in a working-class family in Leamington Spa. Joining the army at the age of 18 and had his first artistic experience when painting rounders in red, white and blue on the wings of fighter planes and bombers. In 1942 he was captured by Nazis and held as prisoner of war for four years. After his release in1946 he moved to St. Ives and lived in a one room cottage with his six children. Frost would take early morning walks by the sea and this is when he started to notice the reflections of boats and sails in the water, which became a source of inspiration for his geometric abstractions. Frost became a Royal Academician in 1992 and in 1998 was knighted.

Artists of Influence

The abstract works on show in Four Giants of British Modernism are all based on figurative ideas yet seek to highlight the expressive potential of the paint itself, drawing attention to the mark making while retaining the subject matter and imagery. The four artists went on to influence an entire generation of others. Frost, Lanyon and Scott all lectured at The Bath Academy of Art at Corsham, a leading institution amongst young artists of the time, offering a unique opportunity for students to work with professional working artists. The artist’s influence on one another is also evident in the exhibition with some of the works being shown side by side for the very first time.


Four Giants of British Modernism:
Terry Frost, William Scott, Peter Lanyon and Patrick Heron
Beaux Arts Gallery
48 Maddox Street
London W1S 1AY
19 September – 19 October 2019
Private View: Wednesday 18 September 2019, 6-.8.30pm

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