This was Wells’s favourite painting. Inspired by the fluid movements of sea birds he saw circling the cliffs of Cornwall, it is one of his largest and most confident works. ‘You can feel the dynamism of their flight and the shapes of their wings all the time,' he said. The canvas is based on a Golden Section grid – a structure deployed by artists for centuries and that Wells used often.
Date of work
Original: Oil on board 106.7 x 71.4 cm Tate © The estate of John Wells
John Wells was a major figure in the St Ives group of artists that were at the forefront of British modern and abstract art in the post-war period. He worked as a GP throughout the 1930s and early 1940s, only pursuing art as a career in his late thirties, when he moved to Newlyn, near St Ives in 1946. He remained in the town for the rest of his life, drawing inspiration from the dramatic landscapes and vast Atlantic vistas. His abstract paintings and sculptures are celebrated for their subtlety and controlled use of space and form.