Cornish painter Peter Lanyon is regarded as one of Britain’s foremost Modern artist. His paintings developed from a lyrical naturalism to complete abstraction, encouraged by his knowledge of Abstract Expressionism, but they remained based on his observation of the Cornish landscape that he loved. In the 1950s his handling became free and gestural, and in 1959 he took up gliding, which led him to paint pictures evoking the invisible forces of the air rather than specific places.
Peter Lanyon was born in St Ives, Cornwall. Following a private education at Clifton College near Bristol, he studied at Penzance School of Art in 1937, and at the Euston Road Art School, London, in 1938. His work is central to any assessment of St Ives painting, since he experienced at first hand the influence of Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Naum Gabo, when they moved to St Ives in 1939. From 1940 to 1946 he served in the RAF and from 1950 to 1957 taught at the Bath Academy of Art, Corsham. He also travelled and taught in the USA, but St Ives remained his home and his principal inspiration. After World War II he was actively involved with the Crypt group and the Penwith School of Art. In 1957 he visited New York for a one-man exhibition at the Catherine Viviano Gallery, where he met Abstract Expressionist painters Mark Rothko and Robert Motherwell. Lanyon began gliding in 1959, a passtime which had a great impact on his painting and print-making. He died in Taunton on 31st August 1964 as a result of injuries he received in a gliding accident.