The personal art collection of Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, an Edinburgh College of Art graduate, will be sold by auction house Lyon & Turnbull in London on Thursday in an auction which will also be streamed online.

The link to the auction is here.

The collection includes 70 paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, ceramics and jewellery which the artist owned when she died in 2004.

The auction includes work by Dame Barbara Hepworth, Sir Terry Frost, Patrick Heron, Roger and Rose Hilton, Bernard and Janet Leach, Denis Mitchell, Ben and Kate Nicholson, Breon O’Casey, Alfred Wallis and Bryan Wynter. There are also several paintings by Barns-Graham in the sale.

A highlight is a Hepworth “double-nude” drawing, Figure and Mirror – a wedding gift from Hepworth to Barns-Graham when she married poet, David Lewis, in 1949. With bidding starting at £100,000, the work is a testimony to one of the first close friendships Wilhelmina made on arrival in Cornwall.

Barns-Graham joined the artistic community in Cornwall in 1940 when she was 27 and straight out of college.

Proceeds from the sale of her collection will go towards helping the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust (WBGT ) in its ongoing work to support artists with awards, travel bursaries, educational projects and exhibition sponsorship.  
The Trust was set up by Barns-Graham in the 1980s and, since 2006, has given funds totalling £400,000 to individuals and institutions. Initiatives aimed at younger artists include summer schools in Fife and St Ives and a £25,000 contribution to Tate St Ives’ re-opening education programme. It also provides bursaries in higher education to support travel abroad and provide financial assistance to enable students to complete studies. 

Working closely with the Royal Scottish Academy and Porthmeor Studios in St Ives, WBGT also supports residencies for more established artists, encouraging career development and fresh ways of thinking and working.

 Rob Airey, Director of the Trust, which is based in Edinburgh, said: “Funds raised from this sale will allow the Trust to extend this ambitious financial support for artists and art education, which was so central to Barns-Graham’s wishes.”

 Charlotte Riordan, Head of Contemporary and Post-War Art with Edinburgh-headquartered auctioneers, Lyon & Turnbull, said: “Selling a private collection is always exciting but handling the sale of a collection relating to a significant movement such as the St Ives School is exceptionally rare.
“Although, as specialists, our role involves valuing a piece of work, you just never know how much people will be prepared to pay at auction. Hepworth’s drawings are scarce to market and the works by Wallis are really fantastic examples.”

Wallis is a reference to Alfred Wallis a self-taught St Ives artist whose work is also in the sale. The works were bought for pennies and now sell for tens of thousands. The

former mariner and rag and bone man died in poverty in 1942. 

He was “discovered” in 1928 by painters Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood. The artists were thunderstruck by the unselfconscious nature of Wallis’ work and the meeting has been described as a watershed moment in the history of Modern British Art. Barns-Graham knew Wallis but would not buy paintings from him as she felt it was exploiting his good nature.