Artist biography

English painter. As a student he painted in an Impressionist style, but during the 1950s, influenced by Walter Richard Sickert, Jack Smith and Edward Middleditch (b 1923), he moved towards the realist style of the Kitchen Sink painters. Woman with Gas Poker (1951; see Moorhouse, 1998, p. 37) is typical: an expressive style captures a domestic scene with muddy, garish colours and a suggestion of ugly brutality. The work of the Abstract Expressionists had an enormous influence on Irvin. Initially he retained his figurative content, but he painted his first fully abstract canvas in 1959. Increasing the scale and moving away from naturalistic colour, he conceived 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 as a theme in its own right. Across (1974; Aberdeen, A.G.) is typical of this period and of his adoption in that year of the more fluid quick-drying medium of acrylic paint. The expressive diagonal motif, which later would assume great importance 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. In the late 1970s Irvin developed an interest in 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.

Albert Irvin: Paintings 1960–1989 (exh. cat., essay P. Moorhouse, Edinburgh, U. Edinburgh, Talbot Rice Gal.; London, Serpentine Gal.; Exeter, Spacex Gal.; Cardiff, Oriel; 1989–90)
Albert Irvin (exh. cat., essays F.-C. Prodhon, G. Goldcymer-Taieb and P. Moorhouse, Meymac, Cent. A. Contemp., 1998)
P. Moorhouse: Albert Irvin: Life to Painting (London, 1998)

10 December 2000

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