The Hepworth Room | Cornel Lucas – St Ives Artists 1950s to 1980s

26th August 2022 - 8th January 2023

Cornel Lucas (1920-2012) had an illustrious  career in portrait photography spanning over 70 years, receiving a BAFTA Award for his “Outstanding Contribution to the British Film Industry” and remains to this day the only photographer ever to have been awarded this title. His work is held in the permanent collections of the National Portrait Gallery London, the V&A Museum London, and the National Media Museum in Bradford and we are naturally delighted and honoured to be hosting this exhibition by such a pioneer in the art of photography.

Born in Highbury London, Lucas began working in the film industry when he was fifteen years old. During the Second World War he worked at the Royal Air Force’ School of Photography, and afterwards at Denham Film Studios. Throughout the rest of the 1940s and 1950s, Lucas pursued his career in film stills and portrait photography working for the British Film Studios. Using a 12×10 large format camera he soon became one of the UK’s leading photographers of movie stars. He left Denham to set up a specially equipped studio at Pinewood Studios, building up associations with Columbia and Universal Studios in the United States. During his illustrious career Lucas photographed an impressive list of film stars and stage actors, including Marlene Dietrich, Leslie Caron, Brigitte Bardot, Katharine Hepburn, Diana Dors, Gregory Peck, Stewart Granger, Dirk Bogarde, Yvonne De Carlo, Federico Fellini, Joan Collins, Alec Guinness, Ben Kingsley, Jean Cocteau, Jean Simmons, Lauren Bacall and Bob Hope (to name a few!).

The exhibition will include never before seen portraits of the St Ives artists such as Barbara Hepworth, Peter Lanyon, Roger Hilton and Bernard Leach. The Penwith Gallery has a personal connection with Cornel as he married the actress Susan Travers, the daughter of the actress Linden Travers, who was a director of Penwith Galleries Ltd. Cornel fell in love with St Ives and travelled there to shoot on location and at his Piazza studio during the mid to late 20th century for both commercial assignments and pleasure. The images that will be exhibited include his personal collection of intimate portraits of the most important British artists of the era that lived and worked in St Ives. These images are from the family archive and many have not been exhibited publicly before. The exhibition runs from the 27th of August, to coincide with the St Ives September Arts Festival, and then into the New Year.