The Hepworth Room | Tom Cross | Paintings from the Artist’s Studio

14th October 2023 - 1st November 2023

Exhibition across two venues:

The Hepworth Room, Penwith Gallery, Back Road West, St Ives TR26 1NL

14 October – 2 November. Private View Saturday 14 October 12.30 – 3.00pm.

Belgrave St Ives, Higher Bussow Farm, Towednack, St Ives TR26 3BB

14 October to 6 November. Private View Sunday 15 October 12.30 – 3.00pm.


On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the publication of the seminal book written by Tom Cross Painting the Warmth of the Sun: St Ives Artists 1930 – 1975, and associated 3-part Channel 4 T V programme, it seems an appropriate time to be mounting an exhibition of Cross’s own art.

The significance of this publication, that re-ignited interest in the group of artists working in and around St Ives in the post-war period, and no doubt helped pave the way to the establishment of the Tate Gallery in St Ives in 1993, illustrates the wide-ranging practice Cross held as an art educator, writer and artist.

This exhibition brings together paintings and prints covering the artist’s career from his Slade School influenced landscape and Still Life paintings of the 1950s Landscape at Houghton Green through the abstract work of the 1960s Interior of a Room to the experimental work of the 1970s Flat culminating in the mature primarily landscape paintings mostly rooted in his home environment around the Helford River, The Quay at Port Navas.

Cross followed an academic training at Manchester School of Art (initially in Architecture) and the Slade School of Art where he won several scholarships. A travel scholarship to Rome was the start of a lifetime of travelling and painting in many countries around the world.

After a period working at the Welsh Art Council, Cross took up a lectureship at Reading University later introducing artists such as Terry Frost to the teaching programme there. The post of Principal at Falmouth School of Art, a position he held from 1976 to 1987, brought him to Cornwall where he settled for the remainder of his life. As a member of the London Group and Penwith Society of Artists (where he became Chairman) many fellow artists coalesced around Cross’s social circle in West Cornwall. Throughout his career and parallel to his academic duties Cross maintained his painting practice rigorously. For instance, as Principal of Falmouth Art School he kept a working studio on site.

On Cross’s retirement from education there was a burgeoning of Helford River paintings depicting private spaces and open vistas such as the The River, Bosloe (2006). Cross repainted the river whilst living by its tides, closely observing the surface wind patterns and wind-blown trees. Today the Helford River is heralded as containing remnant Rainforest (though not positioned on a Western seaboard). Past mining and shipping activity having deforested swathes of it, however, there is renewed interest in sustainable livelihoods to be had there. A new resolve to protect rivers by looking at ecosystem services including what they give us through such activities as sailing and walking – general wellbeing – makes this an interesting moment to revisit this later work and its palettes of blue which feed our ‘blue mind’.

Cross was a meticulous note-maker, recording his observations throughout his life and examples in several of his sketchbooks illustrating this shall be on display in the Penwith Gallery part of this exhibition, providing an insight into the artist’s thoughts and processes.