When Marion and Terry WHYBROW first came to Cornwall in 1980 and settled in St Ives, Marion was a primary school teacher, with a degree in 19th century literature and its legacy, and a teaching certificate from the London Institute of Education. She had been teaching full time, producing the school magazine, and taking the extra responsibility of encouraging children to be creative writers. In Cornwall this translated into part-time and supply teaching, and undertaking articles for the St Ives Times & Echo on art exhibitions and various other (usually art related) events. Her husband Terry was and remains a full-time artist.
Marion was the organiser of 'Inspire' promoting exhibitions for painters, potters and sculptors, selecting artists, writing catalogues and arranging venues. Co-director with publisher Toni Carver (St Ives Times) and together with Colin ORCHARD, designer, she also organised several book fairs, writers' days, Open Studio events and arts-related Town Trails for St Ives. In 1990 she organised the Arts & Crafts Exhibition for six schools in St Ives to celebrate the centenary year of the St Ives Arts Club (STIAC).
As such a town 'servant' one could describe her as the original back-room girl for the artists, and out of these activities she took on the pioneering role of contemporary historian and documenter of the artists' colony of St Ives, a path which several others have followed up with in-depth studies of individual artists and major surveys of particular aspects of the creative colonies (such as marine painting, landscape painters, and defined periods).
Marion made her own contribution to the contemporary artists of West Cornwall, by publishing a series of small books about painters, potters and sculptors around her from 1984-1996 (listed below) which still stand as a useful record about artists, most of whom are still alive today, but about whom little personal information may be available, due to lack of literature such as biographies or critical reviews. These little books offered a portrait of the artist-craftsman at an earlier time in their career, usually in their private studio, with a personal statement.
But meantime, with a research grant from the University of Exeter, Marion produced her first major book 1883-1993 Portrait of an Art Colony, to coincide with the opening of the Tate Gallery, St Ives (1993), published by the Antique Collectors Club, Woodbridge, Suffolk. The book was launched at the Tate St Ives, and remains a treasured archive of detail about art and artists in St Ives, and West Cornwall. From this pioneering work, much else has been forthcoming from other researchers and historians.
Marion's contribution to the history of art and artists in Cornwall is immense, as will be seen from her bibliography. Her social contributions to the organisations that back up and support 'the creative industries' as arts and crafts seem to be called today, are equally great, i.e. STIAC, Tate Gallery St Ives, Leach Pottery, and archives such as the St Ives Archive Trust and the West Cornwall Art Archive. She was an active member of the Hypatia Trust, and contributed a large number of photographs and mementos to the West Cornwall Art Archive project of the Trust.
She died on 19 July, 2015, aged 83, leaving her artist husband Terry, two daughters, and four grandchildren and many friends in the literary and visual arts worldwide.
Author, art historian, film-maker, arts organiser, novelist, playwright
works and access
Her works incl: plays, poetry, novels, and non-fiction art histories.
Society of Authors
misc further info
A complete archive of Marion Whybrow's writings is held by the Hypatia Trust, in its Elizabeth Treffry Collection of the Women of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
1984: Twenty Painters St Ives
1985: Potters in Their Place
1986: Forms and Faces, Sculptors in the South West
1993: Twenty-two Painters Who Happen to be Women
1993: 1883-1993 Portrait of an Art Colony
1994: Studio - Artists in their Workplace, St Ives
1996: Another View - Art in St Ives
1996: The Leach Legacy - St Ives Pottery and its Influence, Bristol: Redcliffe Press
1999: The Innocent Eye - Primitive & Naive Painters in Cornwall, Bristol: Sansom & Co
2003: with Marion Dell, Virginia Woolf & Vanessa Bell - Remembering St Ives, Padstow: Tabb House
2005: Bryan Pearce - A Private View, St Ives Printing & Publishing Co
2008: Update & re-name of 1996 book, The Leach Legacy, as St Ives Pottery - The Legacy of Bernard Leach
2012: Borlase Smart, St Ives Artist - Man of Vision
2013: St Ives, the Story of Porthmeor Studios;
2014: Free Spirits, Painters Jane and Tony O'Malley
2015: Obituary in Art and design, The Guardian, by Helen Dunmore (novelist & friend of Marion), Sunday, 9 August 2015