Patrick Heron in his studio, photographed by Jorge Lewinski.

- As New York began to rival Paris as the centre of Modern Art in the years following the Second World War, so Britain became a dynamic hub for the transfer of ideas back and forth across the Atlantic. This immediate post-war period was defined by an exchange of ideas across oceans, through shared exhibitions, critical writings and most importantly through the close friendships forged between artists. These intimate photographs give an extraordinary insight into the cross-fertilization of artistic ideas in the late 1950s as artists in Britain, France, America and beyond explored the boundaries of abstraction.

William Scott and Mark Rothko, Somerset, 1959. © James Scott. Photograph by James Scott. Courtesy of William Scott Foundation.

This photograph of William Scott and Mark Rothko was taken in August 1959 by Scott’s son James, outside the family’s home at Hallatrow in Somerset. What is remarkable about the image is how relaxed this famously serious leviathan of the New York School looks. That Rothko should be so at home speaks volumes for the relationship between the two men and their empathy as artists. Scott first met Rothko through the New York gallerist Martha Jackson who invited him to Long Island where he also met Pollock, de Kooning and Kline.

Artist Paul Feiler’s home in the Cornish village of Kerris played host to the visiting Rothko in 1959. © The Estate of Paul Feiler. Image courtesy of Redfern Gallery. Photograph by Paul Feiler.

Rothko’s trip to Britain also saw him pay a visit to the artist Peter Lanyon in St Ives. Rothko had met Lanyon at his first New York solo show at Catherine Viviano Gallery in 1957. This shot, taken during lunch at the Chapel, Kerris in August, shows (from left to right): Mell Rothko, Mark Rothko, Terry Frost, Mary Miles, June Miles, Christine Feiler, Helen Feiler, Anthony Feiler, and Peter Lanyon. In his time in St Ives, Rothko and his wife became immersed in the local scene, hopping from one painter’s studio to another, discussing the latest ideas in art and poetry.

Patrick Heron, Clement Greenberg and John Wells at Mousehole, September 1959. Photograph by Jenny Greenburg. Courtesy of the Estate of Patrick Heron.

The notable American critic, Clement Greenberg is shown here visiting Cornwall in 1959 with Patrick Heron and John Wells on the pier of the coastal village of Mousehole. Heron first met Greenberg in 1954 and immediately found a common ground with Greenberg through their substantial understanding and knowledge of European modernism and together they became the leading figures in the transatlantic dialogue on abstract art.

Abstraction is on view at Sotheby’s New Bond Street from 6 to 10 December.