The Penwith Society of Arts in Cornwall was founded on the 8th of February, 1949, following a meeting arranged at the Castle Inn, St Ives. Nineteen artists were the founder members. The new society was formed by many who had resigned from the St Ives Society of Artists and others who sympathised with their dissatisfactions concerning STISA and its policies. The Penwith Society would include both painters and craftsmen, unlike STISA, and would also offer both professional and lay memberships.

The 19 founding members were:  Shearer ARMSTRONGWilhelmina BARNS-GRAHAM, Sven BERLIN, David COX, Agnes E DREY, Leonard John FULLER. Isobel HEATH. Barbara HEPWORTH, Marion Grace HOCKEN, Peter LANYON, Bernard LEACH, Denis MITCHELL, Guido MORRIS, Marjorie MOSTYN, Dicon NANCE, Robin NANCE, Ben NICHOLSON, Hyman SEGAL and John WELLS.

It was agreed that the Society was to be founded as a memorial tribute to Borlase SMART. Officers were elected, and at a general meeting a longer list of artists and craftsmen was invited to become members. Those invited and those who accepted are listed in the Chronology of the Tate (1985) publication.

By 1950 the cracks had begun to show and some of the founding members resigned, including Segal, Cox, Berlin, Isobel Heath, Lanyon and Morris, due to the suggestion put forward to institute divisions (A, B, C) or groups of artists, divided as to whether or not they were A Traditionalists B Modernists and C Craftsmen. Opposition was most vociferous from Lanyon, and at this point he began to exhibit with the NSA in Newlyn, becoming its chairman in 1961. A number of the Founder Members resigned over this issue.  The Penwith Society abolished the A and B group rule in 1957. The Penwith Society still operates today (2013).  Kathleen Watkins, appointed Curator/secretary of the Society in 1967 has recently died, and her successor is not yet known.

To: The Penwith Society of Arts.

So sorry to hear of the death of Kathleen Watkins. Having visited and purchased from the gallery over the years, beginning with a drawing by Helen Feiler in 1984, it was always a pleasure to see the familiar face behind the formidable typewriter. I hope she knew she was a bit of a star. Condolences to family and friends.  Bob Smith, Eastbourne, East Sussex.

Bruce & Mary Wiltshire sent a message using the contact form at

We just wanted to extend our sincere condolences to Kathy's family and 
friends and the Penwith on hearing of Kathy's death. She was an exceptional 
person who helped us decide to buy pieces by D Mitchel and W Barnes-Graham 
and rewarded us with stories and laughter on every visit to the Penwith.
We last saw her over the August Bank Holiday and we cannot quite believe that 
she won't be there when next we visit, she was part of the fabric of St.Ives 
for us and surely for so many others. Her loss must be keen for those that 
knew and loved her well.



works and access



Membership and other special exhibitions are held in the Society's Penwith Gallery, in Back Road, St Ives.



misc further info



Tate (1985) St Ives 1939-64: 25 Years of Painting, Sculpture & Pottery, Chronology & members list to Autumn 1975