Born in St. Andrews Wilhelmina Barns Graham attended Edinburgh College of Art, 1931 – 37. In 1940 she moved to St. Ives where she joined the Newlyn School and The St. Ives Society, becoming a founder member of the Penwith Society in 1949. During this period she became friends with Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, and Naum Gabo, becoming one of the foremost painters working in St Ives alongside Patrick Heron, Terry Frost and Roger Hilton. Between 1956 – 57 she taught at Leeds College of Art. From 1960 she divided her time between her homes in St. Ives and St. Andrews, affirming herself as much a Scottish as Cornish artist. She was completely dedicated to her art, with a drive and energy that sustained her for over sixty years.
She exhibited regularly with galleries throughout the UK, from the Downing Gallery in St Ives to the Pier Arts Centre in Stromness, Orkney. The first major retrospective exhibition of her work was the 1989-90 touring exhibition W. Barns-Graham Retrospective 1940-1989 from City Art Centre, Edinburgh travelling to Newlyn Art Gallery, Penzance. Her work is to be found in all major public collections in the UK including the Tate Gallery, Arts Council and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.