Albert Irvin : Chineland
Monday 14th June 2021

Albert Irvin

Albert Irvin, one of the generation of British painters whose work has both continued and expanded the legacy of abstract expressionism, was born in London in 1922. After being evacuated from the capitol following World War Two, Irvin studied at Northampton School of Art between 1940 and 1941, when his course was interrupted by conscription into the Royal Air Force as a Navigator. When the war was over, Irvin resumed his studies at Goldsmiths College from 1946 to 1950, where he went on to teach from 1962 to 1983.

As a student his work owed a strong debt to the Impressionists, but as the 1950s progressed he become more influenced by the realist style of Kitchen Sink painters such as Walter Sickert, Jack Smith and Edward Middleditch. Woman with Gas Poker (1951) is a typical example of the expressiveness of the work he was producing during this period, with its muddy, garish colours and hint of brutality capturing an atmosphere of straightened domesticity. From the mid 1950s Irvin’s work changed course again after he saw the work of the Abstract Expressionists at the 1956 Tate Gallery exhibition ‘Modern Art in the United States’.

Irvin still retained figurative content following the Tate show, but painted his first fully abstract canvas in 1959 and began working on a larger scale and minimising the amount of naturalistic colour. Increasingly, he was to conceive the picture space metaphorically as a terrain with affinities both to London street maps and to landscape. In the late 1960s he became more concerned with conveying the process of painting and started using acrylic paint because it was more fluid and quick drying. In Across (1974) an expressive diagonal motif, that was to become a major theme in his art, appears at the top of the canvas as plumes of bright yellow and red clouds reaching down to a yellow ground of gestural strokes. Other abstract forms include circles, quatrefoils, lines and crosses. In the late 1970s Irvin experimented with greater spatial complexity. His subsequent work has the appearance of being built up as a tapestry of gestural strokes, symbols and cross-hatching in lively, chromatically intense compositions.

Irvin lives in London and works at his studio in Stepney Green in the East End. His paintings are informed to an extent by the experience of moving through a busy urban environment. Works are often identified by street names, which are chosen because their associative meaning suggests the character of the work.

Paul Moorhouse, Tate curator and author of the book ‘Albert Irvin: Life to Painting’, has written of him: ‘even to those familiar with his work, seeing a new painting by Irvin can be an extraordinary experience akin to discovering a young, energetic artist in the first flush of ambition. Given the force of its restless energy, its freshness and the sense it communicates of an artist in love with his chosen activity, it is even more surprising to realise that this is the work of an artist in his late seventies.’

Irvin’s first solo exhibition was held in 1960 at 57 Gallery in Edinburgh and he has subsequently had many one-man shows internationally. A major retrospective of his work from 1960 to 1989 was held at the Serpentine Gallery in 1990. He won a major Arts Council Award in 1975 and in 1983 he won a Gulbenkian Award for Printmaking. Irvin was awarded a Travel Award to America by the Arts Council in 1968 and later received an Arts Council Major Award. He was elected a Royal Academician and became an honourary member of the Royal Watercolour Association in 1998.


Featuring – Alan ALDRIDGE,  Neil CANNING,  Anthony FROST,  Chris GOLLON,  John HOYLAND, Albert IRVIN,  Rafal OLBINSKI,  Jos Van UIJTREGT,  Jerzy KOLACZ,  Maurice VERRIER.  Charles LEVIER,  Rainbird Fine Art gallery.

Featuring – Alan ALDRIDGE illustrator,  Neil CANNING artist,  Anthony FROST artist,  Chris GOLLON artist,  John HOYLAND artist,  Albert IRVIN artist,  Rafal OLBINSKI artist,  Jos Van UIJTREGT artist,  Jerzy KOLACZ artist,  Maurice VERRIER artist, Charles LEVIER artist,  Rainbird Fine Art gallery

Featuring – Alan ALDRIDGE artist,  Neil CANNING art,  Anthony FROST art,  Chris GOLLON art,  John HOYLAND art,  Albert IRVIN art,  Rafal OLBINSKI art,  Jos Van UIJTREGT art,  Jerzy KOLACZ art,    Maurice VERRIER art.  Charles LEVIER art,  Rainbird Fine Art – art gallery.