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St Ives: An artist’s paradise

Fishing and pleasure craft beached at low tide in St Ive's
St Ives is one of Cornwall’s best-loved fishing villages. The whitewashed cottages, barely a room wide, tumble down the steep hillside towards one of the town’s three sandy beaches. With streets so narrow that non-essential traffic is banned, it is a charming place to visit, explore or stay.

St Ives is particularly popular with artists and is now a warren of art studios, potteries and galleries amidst the more touristy gift shops and cafés. It has a unique quality of light which, along with the slower pace of life and local charm, has drawn artists to the area since the 19th century. J.M.W. Turner and Whistler were some of the town’s early visitors. With plenty of inspirational natural beauty, from seascapes to flower bedecked cottages, St Ives is a wonderful place to rest, relax and rejuvenate any tired spirit.

Tate, St Ives

In 1993, London’s Tate Gallery announced it was opening a new location to celebrate Modernists and the surroundings which inspired them, and not surprisingly, it chose St Ives. The purpose-built rotunda building which has panoramic sea views over Porthmeor Beach is as worthy of a visit as the artworks within. One particular feature to look out for is Patrick Heron’s stained glass window. It is made of antique coloured glass, laminated onto clear glass to avoid the heavy black lead which usually makes up traditional stained glass windows.

Tate St Ives specialises in contemporary artworks by the St Ives School of Artists, mostly from 1925 to 1975. It includes paintings, sculptures and ceramics with temporary exhibitions showcasing mainly local artists.

Children are welcome and the gallery has several child-orientated activities as well as providing activity packs. Interactive talks offer more information about the art on display, and there is an education studio and a lovely gift shop. A visit to this lovely multi-level gallery will eventually lead to the rooftop restaurant where a light lunch or cream tea is enhanced by the spectacular setting.

Barbara Hepworth Museum

An offshoot from the Tate is the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, a quiet escape from the bustling shops and beaches. Along with husband and painter Ben Nicholson, whose White Reliefs are displayed in the Tate, she helped put St Ives on the map for avant-garde and abstract artists in the 1930s. They were joined by Naum Gabo and potter Bernard Leach, firmly establishing St Ives as a highly regarded outpost for the arts.

St Ives Festival of Arts

September is a great month to visit St Ives when it hosts a Festival of Music and the Arts, celebrating the town’s artistic heritage. Offering jazz, blues, folk and classical concerts along with open days in the town’s many galleries, it includes talks, lectures, poetry reading and workshops to thrill and delight any visitor with an interest in the arts.

About Gillian Birch

Born in Cheshire, Gillian Birch moved to Cornwall at her earliest opportunity and never looked back. After 20 years, her ongoing discovery of popular attractions, quiet footpaths and local eateries has made her a fount of knowledge as she entertains readers with her informative articles on the hidden gems of Devon & Cornwall from a local point-of-view.

Find Gillian on Google+, and Twitter.

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