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John Milne

Born in Eccles, Lancashire in 1931. Died St Ives 1978.

Milne initially went to Salford Royal Technical College in 1945 to study electrical engineering but soon transferred to the local College of Art where he specialised in sculpture. An early 1949 sculpture, ‘Seated Figure’, was shown at the Manchester Academy exhibition in 1951 and in the same year Milne completed commissions for two reliefs, also figurative works. He was fortunate that this early promise attracted a patron who was to give him encouragement and financial support for many years.

This enabled him to visit Paris in 1951 where he attended the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and became acquainted with the sculpture of Rodin, Giacometti and Brancusi, the latter in particular having a significant influence on his work. He also visited Greece which prompted a lasting interest in its history, mythology and archaic sculpture.

Soon after this Milne moved to St Ives in Cornwall and for two years worked in the studio of Barbara Hepworth, assisting with carving in wood and stone alongside her principal assistant Denis Mitchell, a mentor of many artists in the St Ives art community. Milne’s own work in the 1950s typically took the form of landscape-derived, abstract carvings or pieces which made reference to architectural or human forms. Increasingly during the following decade he was producing works cast in bronze.

Milne continued to make regular trips abroad, notably to Greece, Persia and Morocco, to places referenced in the titles of many works, giving his oeuvre a more international complexion, distancing it somewhat from the St Ives tradition. 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.