Of the key figures of the ‘first generation’ of St.Ives artists, Wells is perhaps the most neglected, and yet in many ways he is the artist who achieved the closest synthesis of the International Modernist roots that were translated to Cornwall from London by Nicholson, Hepworth and Gabo, and the deep involvement in nature of Lanyon, Frost and Wynter.
A very private figure, his decision to become a full-time artist in 1945 at the age of 38 was a carefully taken step, and in the following fifteen years, his public reputation grew, with his inclusion in a number of British Council touring exhibitions and three one-man shows at Durlacher Gallery, New York through the 1950s. In 1960, he had his first London one-man show at Waddington Galleries. However, unlike many of his contemporaries he avoided the influence of American painting of the post-1945 period and as his work took on a more obviously constructivist manner into the 1960s, after his 1964 Waddington exhibition, he withdrew from the gallery world, exhibiting sporadically and rarely outside Cornwall.
However, since the Tate St.Ives retrospective of his work in 1998, in which this and lot 106 were included, there has been a renaissance in the appreciation of his work and he has once again taken his place as a major figure in British post-war abstraction.
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