British abstract painter Sandra Blow RA (b. 1925-2006) was born in London as the daughter of a Kent fruit farmer whose orchards supplied retailers in Covent Garden.
She left school at fifteen to begin studying art at Central St Martin's School of Art in 1940. Shortly after the Second World War, Blow studied at the Royal Academy Schools, and in 1947 ventured further afield to live in Italy for a year, where she met Italian painter Alberto Burri, who had significant influence on her work for the rest of her career.
Blow was at the forefront of the abstract art movement in Britain during the 1950s and stands as one of the earliest and most original female abstract painters in Britain.
Following her first painting sale to British artist and founder of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, Roland Penrose, Blow's career took off. London Gallery Gimpel Fils took the artist on in 1951 and continued to exhibit her work throughout the 1950s and early 60s, including her first solo show in New York.
Such a partnership led to her exhibiting alongside St. Ives-based artists such as Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Peter Lanyon, Terry Frost and Wilhemina Barnes-Graham. The association with such artists anticipated her move to the Cornish coast for a year in 1957. Around the same time, Blow’s work started to be exhibited abroad, including Italy, Holland, Germany, the United States and later Australasia.
In 1957 Blow featured in the first John Moores biannual exhibition in Liverpool, and a year later was included in the Young Artists Section at the Venice Biennale. By 1960, she won the International Guggenheim Award, and in 1961 gained second prize at the John Moores exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery. In the same year, the artist returned to London and became a tutor at the painting school in the Royal College of Art at a time when artists such as David Hockney, Patrick Caulfield and R.B Kitaj were among the students. Blow stayed at the Royal College of Art for fourteen years and was appointed an honorary fellow in 1973.
Although Blow often exhibited locally around Cornwall, she fulfilled her obligations as a Royal Academician (elected in 1978) and participated in every Summer Exhibition at Burlington House, where she also had a retrospective at the Sackler Gallery in 1994. Her work is featured in numerous collections, including Tate Britain (London), Victoria and Albert Museum (London), The British Council, The Contemporary Arts Society (London), Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge), Museum of Modern Art (New York), and National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne, Australia).
CCA Galleries had the great pleasure of working with Sandra Blow for over seven years before her death and in that time published many stunning silkscreen prints with collaged elements, textures and glazes. Her uncompromising approach pushed printmaking techniques to new boundaries with the introduction of Hessian, film and cloth, creating prints that border on sculptural.