John Wells initially trained as a doctor, but was encouraged to become an artist by Ben Nicholson and Naum Gabo ­ both of whom had moved to St Ives during the War. Initially Wells made purely abstract geometric constructions, but these soon began to reflect the world around him: the rigging of boats, the flight-patterns of birds and the movement of clouds over the Cornish peninsular.


Wells was a co-founder of the Crypt Group and the Penwith Society of Arts, both of which were showcases for the 'new generation¹ of St Ives artists that included Wells, Heron, Lanyon and Wynter. From the '60s onwards, Wells withdrew from exhibiting in London, preferring to work alone in his studio ­ and as a result, the last few decades of his life were full of experimentation as he sought a way of interpreting the uniqueness of his surroundings through abstraction.


Tate St Ives held a major retrospective in 1998 and his work can be found in a number of public collections, both in Britain and abroad.