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The Isles of Scilly


One of the foremost first generation St Ives painters, John Wells, lived and worked in the Scillies for nearly ten years.            

Wells' story is an interesting one. Born in 1907, the son of a doctor, Wells trained at U.C.H. in London as a medic himself, and attending night-school at St Martins School of Art. He worked as a GP on the islands between 1936 and 1945, and he was the junior member of a two-man practice that served the whole group of islands.


As such he took responsibilities for house-calls and emergencies, and left his senior partner to do the routine clinics. These visits usually involved being transported between the islands by launch.

Wells had met Ben Nicholson in 1928 in Feock near Truro, when still a student, and they stayed in touch whilst Wells was on the Scillies. During his time on the islands, Wells developed a distinctive abstract style, reminiscent of the painter David Jones, but simpler, with strong biomorphic contours, inspired by islands themselves.



Later during the war, whilst still living on the islands, Wells visited Nicholson, Gabo and Hepworth in St Ives, and was influenced by the Constructivist, Gabo, to make abstract constructions. These works are now in the Tate collection. At the end of the war Wells gave up medicine to become a full-time artist, and lived in Newlyn until he died.

The Scillies have subsequently become home to a number of resident artists including John Hamilton in the 80s, Kathy Todd in the 90s, and Richard Pearce more recently.


The Dorrien-Smith family have acted as enthusiastic patrons for a number of artists and have a considerable collection of paintings by Cornish artists on display at their two luxurious hotels on Bryer and Tresco.

These include works by Rose Hilton, Terry Frost, Kurt Jackson and Tom Leaper, the latter of whom has contributed sculptures to the Abbey Gardens on Tresco (right: Agave)