Peter Lanyon Christmas Card c.1960

Greetings from Cornwall

Greetings! To Karl Weschke from Sheila and Peter Lanyon, and Roger and Rose Hilton.

These two little Christmas cards were sent to Karl Weschke and his then partner, Jan, from Roger and Rose Hilton, and Sheila and Peter Lanyon.

Informal exchanges between artists show a moment of working practice – a gesture in a moment of time rather than considered and completed ‘pieces’.

Lanyon plays with the concept of abstracting landscape and a birds-eye view through the playful overpainting of a panoramic picture card. The postcard itself was a modern development in photographic production. Dennis Productions only started to produce colour images such as these in the 1960’s.  The panoramic view reflected Lanyon’s interest viewing the landscape from above, as well as his interest in collage and abstraction. It provides an insight in the working through of such ideas, shared with his artistic peers within the artistic community of Cornwall. This, alongside a message encouraging rebelliousness and bawdy humour shows a relationship of warmth and feistiness.

I love the informal nature of this piece of artistic ephemera, and the glimpse into the artistic community of St Ives that it provides.

Similarly, the card from ‘Roger + Rose’ (Hilton) reflects what Roger Hilton was experimenting with at that time. This abstract image even has an arrow indicating which way around it should be viewed! It is a piece of card with an abstract collage of glossy red paper and black painted shapes. It is a dashed off note to friends, and a hastily constructed item, but this just adds (in my view) to its sense of the personal exchange made between artistic practitioners exploring ways of working, and using these to mark a moment of greeting.

I wonder what Karl was working on at that time which would have been the reciprocal image to these. Such greeting cards are common amongst artists. I have been lucky enough to have had a few myself. They are small gems. Often offcuts, or trial prints, or experiments, these are glimpses of thought that can often then be seen, worked through, as completed works of art.

For those of us who delight in the artistic energy and artwork produced by the mid-century St Ives School of artists, these are a chance to capture a little of that moment in time, where along the coves of the Cornish coast artists were forging new pathways in the history of modern abstract art.

A new exhibition at the RWA in Bristol opens shortly, which explores some of these artists, with a particular focus on the work of Wilhelmina Barns-Graham. Wilhelmina Barns-Graham and the Artists of St Ives is on from 14 Mar–24 May 2020 and includes works by both Peter Lanyon and Karl Weschke. I am looking forward to seeing the story that it tells.

Both of these cards and a selection of work by other artists that were part of the same artistic community are in our online shop. I hope that you enjoy them as much as I do.

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