The Penwith is a society of exhibiting artists and has a unique complex of buildings, including public galleries, artist studios, workshops and a coffee bar.
The Penwith Society was founded in 1949 by a group of artists in St. Ives, under the distinguished leadership of Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Bernard Leach.
For the first ten years, work was displayed in rented premises in Fore Street, St. Ives, and its seasonal exhibitions became a national showplace for contemporary painting, sculpture and the crafts.
In 1960, the present site, then a pilchard-packing factory, was acquired and converted into a gallery, with artists’ studios above. In 1970 adjacent property became available, and the artist members, assisted by Barbara Hepworth, sought funds to create the present group of galleries, studios and workshops. To take on the task of maintaining its buildings and workshops, to arrange the programme of exhibitions and execute the gallery business the Penwith Galleries Ltd. was created. This is now a management body and a public charity.