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Athena 1974


signed JEM, titled, dated 1974 and numbered 1/6 (on the underside of the base)

bronze on slate base

height: 37cm.; 22½in.

width: 10cm.; 4in.


J.P. Hodin, John Milne: Sculpture & Drawings, exh. cat., Marjorie Parr, London, 1974, no.25, illus.;

J.P. Hodin, John Milne: Sculptor. Life and Works, London, 1977, no.20, another cast illustrated;

Lynette Forsdyke-Crofts, Reflection of a Sculptor. The Art and Life of John Milne, St Ives 1998, illus., p.11;

Peter Davies, The Sculpture of John Milne, Belgrave Gallery 2000, p.77 JM138


London 1974, John Milne: Sculpture & Drawings, Marjorie Parr, no.25


Born in Eccles, Lancashire, in 1931 Milne studied electrical engineering at Salford Royal Technical College in 1945, then transferred to the art school at the College, specialising in sculpture, until 1951. In the following year he attended the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, in Paris. For two years he was then a pupil of the sculptor Barbara Hepworth and her assistant, along with amongst others, the sculptor Denis Mitchell. Although some of Hepworth’s assistants later moved away from her style, Milne’s work continued to bear some relation to it. In 1956, he purchased Trewyn House, a large property in St Ives, next to Barbara Hepworth's studio (her studio had once been an outbuilding of his house), which provided him with studio space and a view to the sea below.


Milne from the early 1960s visited Greece regularly, an influence which showed itself in works such as Gnathos, owned by the Tate Gallery. The artist wrote: ‘I often cast works with more than one type of finish in order to be absolutely sure that the final result is the most perfect that I can obtain. I consider the polished bronze of Gnathos as the ultimate fulfilment of my original idea. The Greek word “Gnathos” means “jaw” or “jawbone” which describes my feeling of “biting” or “getting ones teeth into” something, be that something my life or my work—this was the emotion of the sculpture. Gnathos was a complete change of direction in my work at that point (1960). I have since carried out many other sculptures and reliefs which continue this pincer-like feeling amongst which are Totemic II and the relief Icarus.’

Milne participated in many group exhibitions, including Penwith Society of Arts and Newlyn Society of Artists, in Cornwall, Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery and Genesis Galleries, New York.

One-man exhibitions included several at Marjorie Parr Gallery (1969,1972 & 1974), Lad Lane Gallery, Dublin, and a retrospective at the Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, in 1971. His reputation grew and his work was collected and exhibited extensively in the UK and abroad; exhibitions were held in Vancouver in 1974 and, jointly with Denis Mitchell and Enzo Plazzotta, in Saudi Arabia in 1976; several Milne exhibitions were also mounted in the USA.


He continued to live and work in St Ives until his untimely death in 1978 at the age of 47. The Belgrave Gallery exhibition in 2000 marked the publication of Peter Davies’s The Sculpture of John Milne.

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John Milne phtographed at his retrospective


This rare early carving was sold when it was first exhibited at the Penwith Society of Arts in the early 1950s and remained in private hands until Mitchell bought it back late in his life in 1990.


Denis Mitchell was born in 1912 in Wealdstone, Middlesex. The family moved to South Wales when he was a young child and it was while growing up there that he developed an interest in art. He moved to Cornwall in 1930 and initially earned a living working with his brother to renovate cottages. Drawn to the artistic community at St Ives, it was there that he began to paint seriously and engage with other artists.

He married in 1939 and during the Second World War worked as a miner at Geevor. This experience of hewing rock fuelled an interest in sculpture and at the end of the war, Bernard Leach suggest his name to Barbara Hepworth as a studio assistant in 1949. An initial day of work led to a 10 year long collaboration in which he was principal assistant and supervised the creation of many of Hepworth's sculptures. By the early 1950s, he was creating many sculptures himself.

In 1955, Mitchell was elected chairman of the Penwith Society of abstract artists and worked out of his own studio in Fore Street, St Ives. He left Hepworth's service in 1959 and became known in the 1960s for his polished bronzes, achieving international recognition with exhibitions in New York and London.

From 1960 he taught at Redruth School of Art and Penzance Grammar School. In 1967 he gave up teaching to commit to full time sculpture and moved to Newlyn to share the large studio of his friend and fellow artist John Wells.

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Gillian AYRES 

1930 -2018


Abstract 1956


mixed media on board

70 by 65.5cm


signed and dated 56 lower left; further signed on the reverse

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