“Virginia Woolf: An Exhibition inspired by her Writings” at Tate St Ives, Cornwall

Sara Barker, Soil like toppled alphabets, 2016
© the artist; Courtesy Mary Mary Gallery, Glasgow


Tate St Ives presents an exhibition of work by over 80 artists from the past 160 years, taking inspiration from the work of British modernist writer Virginia Woolf. Including works by British and international artists ranging from 1854 to contemporary commissions, the selection of paintings, sculptures, photographs, text works and films evoke the recurring themes in Woolf’s writing.

The exhibition is loosely structured in two parts, looking at feminist perspectives on, and approaches to: landscape, exteriority and public life; and domesticity, the home and interiority. Woolf’s relationship to feminism, women’s creativity, domesticity and landscape was bound up with her idea to revolutionise the languages of biography and history and to find new forms for representing women’s creative lives and histories—both in the home and in the public domain.

The first section of the exhibition explores ideas around landscape, nature and its representation, works include the South West landscapes of Laura Knight, Gluck, Frances Hodgkins, Winfred Nicholson and Dora Carrington as well as pieces by Nancy Holt, Louise Bourgeois, Mária Bartuszová and Patricia Johanson. Alongside this are paintings, photographs and sculptures that consider the performance of identity and gender in public, by artists such as Romaine Brooks, Claude Cahun, Birgit Jürgenssen, Linder, Gwen John, Alina Szapocnikow, Eileen Agar, France-Lise McGurn, Penny Goring, Zanele Muholi, Hannah Black and Clare Atwood, who present portraits and self-portraits of known or unknown individuals.

The second part of the exhibition considers the genre of the still life and looks at the home – or ‘room of one’s own’ as a contested site for both creative freedom and social isolation. Here works by Vanessa Bell, Margaret Mellis, Marion Dorn, Enid Marx, Anna Atkins, Shana Lutker, Sara Barker, Nicola L, Caragh Thuring and Eve Fowler, will be shown alongside artists who are interested in the sub-conscious, intimacy and the psyche, such as Ithell Colquhoun, Georgiana Houghton, Joan Mitchell, Toyen, Agnes Martin, Sandra Blow, Emmy Bridgwater, Grace Palithorpe, Penny Slinger, Lucy Stein and Issy Wood.

Virginia Woolf spent her childhood summers in St Ives, Cornwall and returned as an adult, taking inspiration from the town to create her celebrated novel To the Lighthouse—the namesake for which is visible from Tate St Ives.


Claude Cahun, Studies for a keepsake, c. 1925–6
Courtesy of Jersey Heritage


Gwen John (1876-1939), Self-Portrait, 1902


Dora Carrington (1893-1932), Spanish Landscape with Mountains, c.1924


Virginia Woolf: an Exhibition Inspired by her Writings
10 February–29 April 2018

TATE ST IVES | Porthmeor Beach, St Ives, Cornwall
+44 (0)1736 796 226