Lanyon was born in St Ives, Cornwall. He was friends with the artists Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Naum Gabo, who moved to the St Ives area in 1939. Although Lanyon's work from the late-1940s onwards appears to be entirely abstract, its point of reference is the Cornish and West Country landscape. However, instead of reproducing the countryside naturalistically, Lanyon's main concern was to evoke space and air and the sensations of nature. In 1959 he began gliding - an experience which had a profound effect on his later work. Lanyon died in 1964 following a gliding accident.