Dr Ian Massey, who some of you will know from his work with gallery artist Alice Mumford, has written a new book, Queer St Ives and Other Stories. It will be published by Ridinghouse in early June.
While set within a broader context that refers to queer artists and writers active in Cornwall during the twentieth century (eg: Henry Scott Tuke, Gluck, DH Lawrence, Virginia Woolf), the book’s main focus is on the years from the post-war 1940s to the late 1970s, a pivotal era in the development of St Ives modernism, and in changing social attitudes to homosexuality and the politics of liberation. It centres on the sculptor John Milne (1931-78) and his circle. Originally from the northwest of England, Milne lived in St Ives from 1952 until the end of his life. Working in the town initially as an assistant to Barbara Hepworth, with whom he established a lifelong friendship, he subsequently set up his own studio, becoming a member of The Penwith Society, and developing an international career, with shows in the UK, Europe and America. Situated behind what is now the Barbara Hepworth Museum, ‘Trewyn’, his home from 1956 onwards became the locus for often riotous parties, and served as a meeting place for many artists, art world figures and celebrities. Among them were the painters Francis Bacon, Helen Frankenthaler, Alan Lowndes, Patrick Procktor, Mark Tobey and Keith Vaughan, and Whitechapel Gallery director Bryan Robertson.
Contact sheet by Ida Kar, photographs of Milne in the garden at Trewyn, 1961.
Interweaving biography with art and social history, Ian’s book is the first ever queer history of St Ives. While set very largely in the town, the narrative shifts also to Manchester, London, Paris, Greece, New York and Morocco, hence the ‘other stories’ of the book’s title.
The two Sculptures above are by Milne and are in the current Belgrave St Ives exhibitions, St Ives and British Modernism 2022. Both are polished Bronzes. The Left one is called Trio II (wdition 7/9, 36cms), the right, Duo (edition 3/8, 38cms). Header image: Milne at The Penwith Gallery, c. 1963. Credit: The Penwith Gallery Archive.